catch one's breath


1

Resume normal breathing after physical exertion of some kind, as in These stairs are steep; wait a minute till I catch my breath. This phrase once meant the same as hold one's breath—that is, stop breathing momentarily—a usage no longer current. [Early 1800s]

2

Relax, take a rest, as in Events have been moving so fast I'd like to stop and catch my breath. [First half of 1900s]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.