1. the air inhaled and exhaled in respiration.
  2. respiration, especially as necessary to life.
  3. life; vitality.
  4. the ability to breathe easily and normally: She stopped to regain her breath.
  5. time to breathe; pause or respite: Give him a little breath.
  6. a single inhalation or respiration: He took a deep breath.
  7. the brief time required for a single respiration; a moment or instant: They gave it to her and took it away all in a breath.
  8. a slight suggestion, hint, or whisper: The breath of slander never touched her.
  9. a light current of air.
  10. Phonetics.
    1. the air drawn into or expelled from the lungs to provide the generative source for most speech sounds.
    2. the audible expiration generating voiceless speech sounds, as (p), (k), (sh), etc.
  11. moisture emitted in respiration, especially when condensed and visible.
  12. a trivial circumstance; trifle.
  13. an odorous exhalation, or the air impregnated by it.
  14. Obsolete. exhalation or vapor.
  1. below/under one's breath, in a low voice or whisper; sotto voce: He protested under his breath because he was afraid to speak up.
  2. catch one's breath, to pause or rest before continuing an activity or beginning a new one; resume regular breathing: Let me catch my breath before I begin anything new.
  3. in the same breath, at virtually the same time; almost simultaneously: She lost her temper and apologized in the same breath.
  4. out of breath, exhausted or gasping for breath, in consequence of an effort; breathless: After climbing to the top of the tower, we were so out of breath that we had to sit down.
  5. save one's breath, to avoid futile talk or discussion: We were told to save our breath because the matter had already been decided.
  6. take away one's breath, to make one as if breathless with astonishment; surprise; stun: The sheer beauty of the sea took away my breath.Also take one's breath away.

Origin of breath

before 900; Middle English breth, breeth, Old English brǣth smell, exhalation; akin to German Brodem vapor, steam
Related formsin·ter·breath, adjective
Can be confusedbreadth breath breathe

Synonyms for breath Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for breaths

Contemporary Examples of breaths

Historical Examples of breaths

  • Then, in two breaths: "Can't do it," he decided; "not at the price."

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The crew held their breaths as if the apparition might vanish as suddenly as it appeared.

  • The crew in the little boat stared at it, holding their breaths.

  • She ain't caught more than two breaths in the last minute and a half.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Boys looked straight in front of them and held their breaths.

    Tom, Dick and Harry

    Talbot Baines Reed

British Dictionary definitions for breaths


  1. the intake and expulsion of air during respiration
  2. the air inhaled or exhaled during respiration
  3. a single respiration or inhalation of air, etc
  4. the vapour, heat, or odour of exhaled airhis breath on the window melted the frost
  5. a slight gust of air
  6. a short pause or resttake a breath for five minutes
  7. a brief timeit was done in a breath
  8. a suggestion or slight evidence; suspiciona breath of scandal
  9. a whisper or soft sound
  10. life, energy, or vitalitythe breath of new industry
  11. phonetics the passage of air through the completely open glottis without vibration of the vocal cords, as in exhaling or pronouncing fricatives such as (f) or (h) or stops such as (p) or (k)Compare voice (def. 11)
  12. a breath of fresh air a refreshing change from what one is used to
  13. catch one's breath to rest until breathing is normal, esp after exertion
  14. hold one's breath to wait expectantly or anxiously
  15. in the same breath done or said at the same time
  16. out of breath gasping for air after exertion
  17. save one's breath to refrain from useless talk
  18. take one's breath away to overwhelm with surprise, etc
  19. under one's breath or below one's breath in a quiet voice or whisper

Word Origin for breath

Old English brǣth; related to brǣdan to burn, Old High German brādam heat, 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 breaths



Old English bræð "odor, scent, stink, exhalation, vapor" (Old English word for "air exhaled from the lungs" was æðm), from Proto-Germanic *bræthaz "smell, exhalation" (cf. Old High German bradam, German Brodem "breath, steam"), from PIE root *gwhre- "to breathe, smell."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

breaths in Medicine


  1. The air inhaled and exhaled in respiration.
  2. A single 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 breaths


In addition to the idiom beginning with breath

  • breathe down someone's neck
  • breathe easy
  • breathe life into
  • breathe one's last
  • breathing space
  • breath of fresh air

also see:

  • catch one's breath
  • hold one's breath
  • in the same breath
  • out of breath
  • save one's breath
  • take one's breath away
  • under one's breath
  • waste one's breath
  • with bated breath
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.