Definition of breath in US English:



  • 1The air taken into or expelled from the lungs.

    ‘I was gasping for breath’
    ‘his breath smelled of garlic’
    • ‘She struggled to keep herself quiet as she took in breath after breath of air.’
    • ‘Makoto stood there gasping for breath and Kathy was breathing heavily but still was more alert than him.’
    • ‘This knocked the breath from her lungs so violently she felt as though she would pass out.’
    • ‘I could feel the goosebumps upon my skin, the breath caught in my lungs in the presence of the devil before me.’
    • ‘The collision easily knocked the breath out of him, so he just lied there, unmoving.’
    • ‘I fell to the hard forest floor, the impact knocking the breath from my lungs.’
    • ‘Cavity and maxillary sinus measurements were also obtained with mouth breathing and breath holding techniques.’
    • ‘For when I read the first few sentences, I was sure that the breath caught in my lungs and I almost dropped it.’
    • ‘Clearly, flow limitation can occur throughout expiration or only over a portion of the expiratory breath.’
    • ‘She burst through the top of the water and gasped loudly for breath, her lungs and face stinging from the cold.’
    • ‘She took a few moments to gather enough breath to get anything audible out.’
    • ‘Gasping for breath at the top, I went into the bedroom and found that my respiration rate matched that of the patient.’
    • ‘Hitting the hard ground, her breath rushed from her lungs and she was quickly surrounded by five angry faces.’
    • ‘I winced as I saw his chest connect with the ground, knowing myself how it knocked the breath out of your lungs.’
    • ‘He gasped for one last breath of air, his eyes widening and his body shaking, then dropped still, motionless.’
    • ‘As the oxygen mask reduced her need to gasp for breath, Mary relaxed a bit and reflected on her last, turbulent hour.’
    • ‘Zander gasped for breath, his lungs burning for it, as Charlie landed another punch in his stomach.’
    • ‘The measurement was taken as the best of three blows from total lung capacity with no breath hold.’
    • ‘What biomarkers of lung cancer did the electronic nose detect in breath?’
    • ‘Arms flailing, he crashed to the floor, his breath blasted from his lungs.’
    • ‘This waif-like girl was sitting upright, gasping for breath with an oxygen cannula dripping blood.’
    • ‘The sight she had just seen caused her to literally knock the breath out of her lungs.’
    • ‘Vincent coughed, trying to catch the breath that his lungs were being denied.’
    • ‘The remote fell out of my hand and breath rushed from my lungs.’
    • ‘Holding your breath after inhaling helps your heart and lungs show up more clearly on the image.’
    • ‘The force of the child's inhaled breath delivers the aerosolized powder into the lungs.’
    • ‘The crashing walls of the sea had knocked the breath from their lungs, and they struggled to reach the surface once more.’
    • ‘When in actuality, children need all of their breath in order to simply breathe.’
    1. 1.1 An inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs.
      ‘she drew in a quick breath’
      ‘take three deep breaths’
      • ‘It was amazing what a few calm words and deep breaths can do for the heart and soul.’
      • ‘She drew deep breaths and concentrated all of her attention on putting one foot in front of another.’
      • ‘He took a few deep, quiet breaths and looked away from her questioning, apprehensive expression.’
      • ‘When the treatment is finished, inhalation sedation wears off after a few deep breaths.’
      • ‘She had to breathe a couple of deep breaths before she could allow herself to talk about her mom.’
      • ‘I was taking shorter breaths and getting exhausted quicker than the average person.’
      • ‘I swallowed and began to take deep breaths to try to stop the fire in my chest.’
      • ‘After taking a few deep, calming breaths, she really looked at the two children.’
      • ‘Alis felt her heart pound loudly against her chest, her breathing coming in soft but quick breaths.’
      • ‘Alex nodded, went back into the bathroom and took several deep, gulping breaths.’
      • ‘She forced herself to take a few deep breaths to calm her racing heart and clear her mind.’
      • ‘I have to take it in my stride and take a few deep breaths and manage it in the most mature way I can.’
      • ‘She took several deep breaths and tried to settle the uneasiness in her chest.’
      • ‘Taking a few deep breaths to calm down, she swung her legs over the side of the cot and sat on the edge.’
      • ‘He took a few deep breaths and realized it was a stain from something he drank a few days prior.’
      • ‘The boy stopped out of breath as he rested his hands on his knees and took in a few deep breaths.’
      • ‘I did not let go of his hand as he took a few deep breaths, he was still shaking with pent up rage.’
      • ‘I walked into the kitchen and took a few deep breaths in the dark then turned on the light.’
      • ‘These are beaches for walking and composing, for deep breaths and thoughts of God.’
      • ‘Checking for cars, he took a few deep breaths and figured out what he was going to say.’
      gulp of air, inhalation, inspiration
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2archaic The power of breathing; life.
      life, life force, animation, vital force
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 A brief moment; the time required for one act of respiration.
      ‘in Las Vegas, they marry you in a breath’
      • ‘One hour ago, he was alive, then, in a breath he was gone.’
      • ‘Pedro is a breath away from signing with the Mets.’
      • ‘He can also be horrible only a breath later.’
      • ‘In the breath of a moment before the clouds moved back over the moon the tension snapped.’
      • ‘Our lives are over in a breath — teach us to count how few days we have.’
    4. 1.4in singular A slight movement of air.
      ‘the weather was balmy, not a breath of wind’
      • ‘Then, he whispered, barely like a breath of wind, the last word that he would ever say.’
      • ‘Lights danced in the city below and there wasn't a breath of wind.’
      • ‘Heather holds sandy moraines together, its pink and white bells shivering in a breath of breeze.’
      • ‘Yes, for an afternoon or two, a breath of wind passed through the university.’
      • ‘The lanes are low and narrow, and not a breath of air stirs through them.’
      • ‘She hastened her steps, for the wind was a breath of chilling air and she was anxious to get home and off of her tired feet.’
      • ‘The sunshine passed away, and a breath of cold wind seemed to drift over us.’
      • ‘The sun was pouring down, with hardly a breath of wind.’
      puff, waft, slight stirring, sigh, faint breeze
      View synonyms
    5. 1.5in singular A sign, hint, or suggestion.
      ‘he avoided the slightest breath of scandal’
      • ‘The writer added a breath of intrigue to the mystery surrounding the wizard.’
      • ‘Buffy marched into the kitchen with Tara, who looked like a breath of spring in her peasant top, long skirt and shy smile.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, priests and laity restored the mass at the mere breath of royal suggestion.’
      • ‘There has been not a breath of public criticism for this.’
      • ‘Coy admissions of a relationship between the parties lent a breath of intrigue to the otherwise sedate election campaign.’
      hint, suggestion, trace, touch, whisper, suspicion, whiff, undertone
      View synonyms


  • the breath of life

    • A thing that someone needs or depends on.

      ‘politics has been the breath of life to her for 50 years’
      • ‘In India, rice is often called the breath of life.’
      • ‘Yours is the house which decides the fate of the land, the house which gives the breath of life to the people.’
      • ‘She hadn't done it in such a long time and she was longing for it as though it was the breath of life.’
      • ‘The political will to use force is the breath of life of deterrence.’
      • ‘She poured some into the cap, cupping it into her hands and inhaling its warmth as if it were the breath of life.’
  • catch one's breath

    • 1Cease breathing momentarily in surprise or fear.

      • ‘The pain wasn't too bad but it caught my breath.’
      • ‘As I walked out of our cottage, the sky caught my breath as I muttered a "thank you" to God for such a beautiful place.’
      pant, puff, puff and pant, blow, heave, wheeze, breathe hard, breathe heavily, catch one's breath, draw in one's breath, gulp, choke, fight for breath, struggle for air
      View synonyms
    • 2Rest after exercise to restore normal breathing.

      ‘she stood for a few moments catching her breath’
      • ‘I crouched down behind a pile of broken stone to catch my breath.’
      • ‘Once the pain subsided, I was still panting and trying to catch my breath.’
      • ‘It felt like my chest tightened up and I had to struggle to catch my breath.’
  • don't hold your breath

    • informal Used hyperbolically to indicate that something is likely to take a long time.

      ‘don't hold your breath waiting for Congress to clean up political action committees’
      • ‘But it'll take time even then, so don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘Don't hold your breath for any earth-shattering developments.’
      • ‘So, if you are waiting for dramatic action against air pollution, don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘But if you are expecting a $50,000 check, don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘But don't hold your breath for a correction to appear in the nation's paper of record.’
      • ‘When it comes to finding out what the teacher does and how well they do it - don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘Maybe the third movie will bring the whole thing together for a coherent conclusion, but don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘So I'll be in touch if I find out anything more, but don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘Now, if you're thinking SPAM and spyware issues will soon go away, don't hold your breath.’
      • ‘But don't hold your breath to see it portrayed as such onscreen anytime soon.’
  • draw breath

    • Breathe in.

      • ‘He drew breath to say something, but the knight cut him off coldly.’
      • ‘This is the place for drawing breath, plus a long, cool lime juice.’
      • ‘She drew breath as easily as she once did, and she could talk.’
      • ‘For as long as she drew breath she would fight for her baby.’
      • ‘She drew breath and poised herself between candor and discretion.’
      • ‘He talks knowledgeably and constantly, only drawing breath to puff on his cigarette.’
      • ‘He drew breath, clearly intending to continue.’
      • ‘I drew breath like I was gonna start a long speech.’
      • ‘Photographing them gives me an excuse to briefly draw breath and to rapture.’
      • ‘The old man remained nearly motionless, but he still drew breath.’
      inhale and exhale, respire, draw breath
      View synonyms
  • get one's breath (back)

    • Begin to breathe normally again after exercise or exertion.

      • ‘Even when she broke the surface and began fighting for air, she couldn't get her breath.’
      • ‘In the car going over there I tried to breathe and couldn't get my breath.’
      • ‘Sitting down also gave me a good opportunity to get my breath back!’
      • ‘Back in the mall we sat on a row of benches to get our breath back.’
      • ‘She was still breathing hard, but was beginning to get her breath back.’
      • ‘When we sat down to get our breath back, he told me he was a student.’
      • ‘I skidded to a stop on Frankie's perch, leaning against the pristine white railing to get my breath back.’
      • ‘I was huffing and puffing, trying to get my breath back.’
      • ‘Finally we managed to find a corner without gas and I got my breath back.’
      • ‘She was shocked and screaming and could not get her breath.’
  • hold one's breath

    • 1Cease breathing temporarily.

      • ‘When it ends, you realise that you've been holding your breath and, finally, exhale.’
      • ‘He held his breath, afraid to breathe or make any noise.’
      • ‘Don't inhale deeply or hold your breath, just breathe normally.’
      • ‘You want to hold your breath, because it just doesn't feel healthy breathing it in.’
      • ‘Most often, when we are overly frightened, we either breathe much too quickly or we hold our breath.’
      • ‘This test involves breathing normally then holding your breath for as long as is comfortable.’
      • ‘There was a squeal of laughter and Maple breathed out, unaware until now that she'd been holding her breath.’
      • ‘Don't hold your breath when you lift heavy weights.’
      • ‘Performers may hold their breath or breathe rapidly and shallowly from the upper chest.’
      • ‘Remember to try tightening all your muscles, holding your breath, or breathing heavy.’
      1. 1.1Be in a state of suspense or anticipation.
        ‘France held its breath while the Senate chose its new president’
        • ‘We were really holding our breath throughout this entire production.’
        • ‘I know you've all been waiting for me while holding your breath in anticipation of some sort of great leader, but I'm not.’
        • ‘The answer, in case you were holding your breath, was a pretty resounding no.’
        • ‘There are still a lot of people holding their breath, wondering how this launch will go.’
        • ‘We've been having an academic discussion and holding our breath in this area for several years.’
  • in the same (or next) breath

    • At the same time.

      ‘he congratulated Simon on his victory but in the same breath dismissed it’
      • ‘Salzman celebrates and scrutinizes the policy in the same breath.’
      • ‘I only came here so I could be mentioned in the same breath as him during the introductions.’
      • ‘I'd normally go a long way to avoid shows in which words like ‘engineering’ and ‘entertainment’ are used in the same breath.’
      • ‘Take it as a warning sign when no one ever mentions your name without your bud's in the same breath.’
      • ‘Some of you may think it's wrong to talk about God and business in the same breath.’
      • ‘It's old-fashioned and new-fangled all in the same breath.’
      • ‘Then, in the next breath, he hints at something darker.’
      • ‘This week's people could promise you the moon, then forget all about it in the next breath.’
      • ‘More often than not, the two were expressed in the same breath.’
      • ‘Such photographers are seldom mentioned in the same breath as the kings in the world of photography.’
  • out of breath

    • Gasping for air, typically after exercise.

      ‘he arrived on the top floor out of breath’
      • ‘Half an hour later Liz walked off the dance floor and flopped back into her chair, out of breath.’
      • ‘After about ten more minutes, they were nearly to the top and both of them were out of breath.’
      • ‘By the time we got to his car we were both laughing and out of breath, and had to collapse against the doors.’
      • ‘Panting, she was out of breath when she held out her hands and gripped onto his arms tightly.’
      • ‘I was all out of breath maybe I should not have asked so many questions at one time.’
      • ‘By the time she got home she was out of breath and her hair was messy from the wind.’
      • ‘I entered the room from the side entrance close to the stage, out of breath but excited.’
      • ‘Needless to say I made it on time and sat down roughly in my chair, completely out of breath.’
      • ‘They hear thuds as someone approaches the bedroom and Michael bursts in out of breath.’
      • ‘We were both out of breath from dancing so hard so long.’
      out of breath, panting, puffing, gasping, gasping for breath, huffing and puffing, puffing and blowing, puffed, puffed out, gulping, gulping for breath, wheezing, wheezy, choking, winded
      View synonyms
  • take someone's breath away

    • Astonish or inspire someone with awed respect or delight.

      • ‘He slowly removed his sunglasses, revealing a pair stunning blue eyes that took Rika 's breath away.’
      • ‘She's an astonishing performer, she takes your breath away.’
      • ‘Inside he found five masterpieces, but it was the contents of the last violin case that took his breath away.’
      • ‘He didn't apologize, just kissed me quickly on the mouth, taking my breath away.’
      • ‘It was, quite literally, a view that took my breath away.’
      • ‘To feel such venom coming at you is so shocking it takes your breath away.’
      • ‘And he brought to the diocese a freshness, energy and enthusiasm that took our breath away.’
      • ‘I guess I was very naive, but the violence of the attention took my breath away.’
      • ‘The hush of the garden after the neighbor's engine died away almost took our breath away.’
      • ‘To see all our friends there with banners, it was fantastic, took our breath away.’
      astonish, astound, amaze, surprise greatly, stun, startle, stagger, shock, shatter, take aback, stop someone in their tracks, leave open-mouthed, leave aghast, dumbfound, jolt, shake up
      View synonyms
  • under one's breath

    • In a very quiet voice; almost inaudibly.

      ‘he swore violently under his breath’
      Compare with sotto voce
      • ‘Swearing under his breath, he stopped the juggernaut and stepped out.’
      • ‘She stared at the empty glass for a moment, and then swore quietly under her breath.’
      • ‘I growled quietly under my breath and frowned at my reflection from a shop window.’
      • ‘Even Ryan was murmuring under his breath.’
      • ‘She swore softly under her breath as she began to push her way through the crowd.’
      • ‘I wandered through the apartment door in a daze, humming quietly under my breath.’
      • ‘They chanted softly under their breath in a language said to have died with the ancient evils.’
      • ‘My eyes followed his steady pace around the room as he tore at his hair and swore under his breath.’
      • ‘Shiro cursed quietly under his breath as he ran a frustrated hand through his dark hair.’
      • ‘Andrea jerked to a stop again at another traffic light and he swore under his breath.’
      softly, making little noise, in a low voice, in hushed tones, in low tones, in muted tones, in subdued tones, in a mumble, in a murmur, in a whisper, murmuringly, under one's breath, in an undertone, sotto voce, gently, faintly, weakly, feebly
      View synonyms
  • waste one's breath

    • Talk or give advice without effect.

      ‘I have better things to do than waste my breath arguing’
      • ‘He was bound to find out about my problem eventually, so why waste my breath when it was not needed?’
      • ‘I will explain to you, but there is no point in wasting my breath unless you answer me one simple question.’
      • ‘He wanted to tell them how wrong they all were but he felt like he would be wasting his breath.’
      • ‘So quit wasting your breath, forget her and move out of my way.’
      • ‘You shouldn't have wasted your breath on them.’
      • ‘But they're wasting their breath, we're not about to sacrifice the principles we cherish.’
      • ‘Stop wasting your breath and drive or else I'll do it myself!’
      • ‘She didn't bother wasting her breath on droning polite words to sound sophisticated.’
      • ‘You silently curse, but it's no use, you're just wasting your breath; no one can control Mother Nature.’
      • ‘I tried to explain the spellchecker to her, but after a few seconds I realized I was wasting my breath.’
  • last breath

    • The last moment of one's life (often used hyperbolically); death.

      ‘she would fight to the last breath to preserve her good name’
      • ‘From the moment we are born until we take our last breath and die, it is like our life force.’
      • ‘I want to keep on singing till my last breath.’
      • ‘Ken took his last breath while embracing his wife, daughter and son.’
      • ‘It's a crusade that I will pursue until I draw my last breath.’
      • ‘And in her last breath, her last moment of life, she looked around and I wasn't there.’
      • ‘Facing the cameras, he rededicates himself to serve the people till his last breath.’
      • ‘Little by little, his muscles will give away, until finally he will be down to his last breath.’
      • ‘I swung into the hall, prepared to fight to my last breath.’
      • ‘I'm required to work until my last breath to make sure that justice is done to my client.’
      • ‘From the moment Gwen got to that party to her last breath, I want to know what happened.’
  • save one's breath

    • Stop wasting time in futile talk.

      ‘save your breath; I know all about it’
      • ‘And all those Canadians who are constantly pleading with me to stay might as well save their breath.’
      • ‘So these guys were the smart ones, getting it printed on t-shirts to save their breath for running.’
      • ‘The candidates, they suggested, should save their breath for the economy and health care.’
      • ‘He should heed his own statement from today and save his breath until he has something substantive to say.’
      • ‘Kendall should save her breath because she's not going to change her mind.’
      • ‘He apologises for his behaviour but she tells him to save his breath.’
      • ‘I could talk about the reason for a whole day but I am really tired of it and I'll save my breath here.’
      • ‘Fans go out their way to give their opinion on the calls, but they might as well save their breath.’
      • ‘It makes no difference what he says; for all the effect it has, he might as well save his breath.’
      • ‘He's telling her to save her breath and not tell him things he's already heard her say.’


Old English brǣth ‘smell, scent’, of Germanic origin; related to brood.