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[bree-th er] /ˈbri ðər/
a pause, as for breath.
vigorous exercise that causes heavy breathing.
a person who breathes.
a vent in a container or covering, as in a casing for machinery or in a storage tank, to equalize interior and exterior pressure, permit entry of air, escape of fumes, or the like.
a device for providing air from the atmosphere to submerged or otherwise sealed-off persons, internal-combustion engines, etc.:
the snorkel breather of a submarine.
Origin of breather
First recorded in 1350-1400, breather is from the Middle English word brethere. See breathe, -er1
1. rest, break, time-out, recess, intermission. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for breather
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I'm goin' to take a breather for a few days an' lay again' 'em next week.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • The guests at the big table were leaning back in their chairs taking a breather.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • Mrs. Cowdery is essentially a breather and a bringer of peace.

    Adventures in the Arts Marsden Hartley
  • I said to Miss White, who was taking a breather at the hall door.

    Happy Days Alan Alexander Milne
  • "I take what you call a breather," answered the man stolidly.

    A Mating in the Wilds Ottwell Binns
British Dictionary definitions for breather


(informal) a short pause for rest
a person who breathes in a specified way: a deep breather
a vent in a container to equalize internal and external pressure, such as the pipe in the crankcase of an internal-combustion engine
a small opening in a room, container, cover, etc, supplying air for ventilation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for breather

c.1600, "a living creature, one who breathes," agent noun from breathe. Meaning "spell of exercise to stimulate breathing" is from 1836; that of "a rest to recover breath" is from 1901.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for breather



A person who makes harassing telephone calls and merely breathes, rather than talking, into the mouthpiece (1970s+)

Related Terms

heavy breather, mouth-breather

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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