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[breth-lis] /ˈbrɛθ lɪs/
without breath or breathing with difficulty; gasping; panting:
We were breathless after the steep climb.
with the breath held, as in suspense, astonishment, fear, or the like:
breathless listeners of the mystery story.
causing loss of breath, as from excitement, anticipation, or tension:
a breathless ride.
dead; lifeless.
motionless or still, as air without a breeze:
a breathless summer day.
Origin of breathless
First recorded in 1350-1400, breathless is from the Middle English word brethles. See breath, -less
Related forms
breathlessly, adverb
breathlessness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for breathless
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It is only the true lover to whom the breathing form is as sacred as the breathless.

    Malbone Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • There was a sort of breathless touch in the air of the room.

    Way of the Lawless Max Brand
  • Kitty dropped on the floor at Helen's feet; the hush in the room was breathless.

    The Bacillus of Beauty Harriet Stark
  • A crowd of silent men had gathered about the box in a breathless wait.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • The Countess, breathless from dancing, burst in upon the little group.

    Chip, of the Flying U B. M. Bower
British Dictionary definitions for breathless


out of breath; gasping, etc
holding one's breath or having it taken away by excitement, etc: a breathless confrontation
(esp of the atmosphere) motionless and stifling
(rare) lifeless; dead
Derived Forms
breathlessly, adverb
breathlessness, noun
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 breathless

late 14c., "unable to breathe," from breath + -less. Meaning "out of breath, panting" is from mid-15c. Used from 1590s in the sense "dead." Meaning "forgetting to breathe due to excitement, awe, anticipation, etc." is recorded from 1802. Related: Breathlessly; breathlessness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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