[bree-th ing]


Origin of breathing

First recorded in 1350–1400, breathing is from the Middle English word brethynge. See breathe, -ing1
Related formsbreath·ing·ly, adverbun·breath·ing, adjective



verb (used without object), breathed [breethd] /briðd/, breath·ing.

to take air, oxygen, etc., into the lungs and expel it; inhale and exhale; respire.
(in speech) to control the outgoing breath in producing voice and speech sounds.
to pause, as for breath; take rest: How about giving me a chance to breathe?
to move gently or blow lightly, as air.
to live; exist: Hardly a man breathes who has not known great sorrow.
to be redolent of.
(of a material) to allow air and moisture to pass through easily: The jacket is comfortable because the fabric breathes.
(of the skin) to absorb oxygen and give off perspiration.
(of a wine) to be exposed to air after being uncorked, in order to develop flavor and bouquet.

verb (used with object), breathed [breethd] /briðd/, breath·ing.

to inhale and exhale in respiration.
to exhale: Dragons breathe fire.
to inject as if by breathing; infuse: She breathed life into the party.
to give utterance to; whisper.
to express; manifest.
to allow to rest or recover breath: to breathe a horse.
to deprive of breath; tire; exhaust.
to cause to pant; exercise.

Origin of breathe

1250–1300; Middle English brethen, derivative of breath
Related formsout·breathe, verb (used with object), out·breathed, out·breath·ing.pre·breathe, verb (used with object), pre·breathed, pre·breath·ing.
Can be confusedbreadth breath breathe

Synonyms for breathe Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for breathing

Contemporary Examples of breathing

Historical Examples of breathing

  • It is only the true lover to whom the breathing form is as sacred as the breathless.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • At length her head came up a little and her breathing was easier and easier.

  • A man is but a beast as he lives from day to day, eating and drinking, breathing and sleeping.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Wilson was breathing quietly: his color was coming up, as he rallied from the shock.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • For a long time he did not move, but I could see he was breathing.

British Dictionary definitions for breathing



the passage of air into and out of the lungs to supply the body with oxygen
a single breatha breathing between words
an utterancea breathing of hate
a soft movement, esp of air
a rest or pause
  1. expulsion of breath (rough breathing) or absence of such expulsion (smooth breathing) preceding the pronunciation of an initial vowel or rho in ancient Greek
  2. either of two symbols indicating this



to take in oxygen from (the surrounding medium, esp air) and give out carbon dioxide; respire
(intr) to exist; be aliveevery animal that breathes on earth
(intr) to rest to regain breath, composure, etcstop your questions, and give me a chance to breathe
(intr) (esp of air) to blow lightlythe wind breathed through the trees
(intr) machinery
  1. to take in air, esp for combustionthe engine breathes through this air filter
  2. to equalize the pressure within a container, chamber, etc, with atmospheric pressurethe crankcase breathes through this duct
(tr) phonetics to articulate (a speech sound) without vibration of the vocal cordsCompare voice (def. 19)
to exhale or emitthe dragon breathed fire
(tr) to impart; instilto breathe confidence into the actors
(tr) to speak softly; whisperto breathe words of love
(tr) to permit to restto breathe a horse
(intr) (of a material) to allow air to pass through so that perspiration can evaporate
breathe again, breathe freely or breathe easily to feel reliefI could breathe again after passing the exam
breathe down someone's neck to stay close to someone, esp to oversee what they are doingthe cops are breathing down my neck
breathe one's last to die or be finished or defeated

Word Origin for breathe

C13: from breath
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

Word Origin and History for breathing



c.1300, not in Old English, but it retains the original Old English vowel of its source word, breath. Related: Breathed; breathing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

breathing in Medicine




The alternate inhalation and exhalation of air in respiration.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with breathing


In addition to the idioms beginning with breathe

  • breathe down someone's neck
  • breathe easy
  • breathe life into
  • breathe one's last

also see:

  • as I live and breathe
  • breathing space
  • not breathe a word
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.