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A polyomino (or simply omino) is a finite collection of orthogonally connected cells. Conway's early investigations of Life and other cellular automata involved tracking the histories of small polyominoes, this being a reasonable way to ascertain the typical behaviour of different cellular automata when the patterns had to be evolved by hand rather than by computer. Polyominoes have no special significance in Life, but their extensive study during the early years lead to a number of important discoveries and has influenced the terminology of Life.

It is possible for a polyomino to be an oscillator. In fact, there are infinitely many examples of such polyominoes, including the cross and its larger analogues. The only other known examples are the block (which has period 1), the blinker, the toad, the star and (in two different phases) the pentadecathlon.

A polyomino can also be a spaceship, though the only known examples are the lightweight spaceship, the middleweight spaceship, and the heavyweight spaceship.