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.
    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.
    in the same breath, at virtually the same time; almost simultaneously: She lost her temper and apologized in the same breath.
    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.
    save one's breath, to avoid futile talk or discussion: We were told to save our breath because the matter had already been decided.
    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. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for save one's breath



the intake and expulsion of air during respiration
the air inhaled or exhaled during respiration
a single respiration or inhalation of air, etc
the vapour, heat, or odour of exhaled airhis breath on the window melted the frost
a slight gust of air
a short pause or resttake a breath for five minutes
a brief timeit was done in a breath
a suggestion or slight evidence; suspiciona breath of scandal
a whisper or soft sound
life, energy, or vitalitythe breath of new industry
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)
a breath of fresh air a refreshing change from what one is used to
catch one's breath to rest until breathing is normal, esp after exertion
hold one's breath to wait expectantly or anxiously
in the same breath done or said at the same time
out of breath gasping for air after exertion
save one's breath to refrain from useless talk
take one's breath away to overwhelm with surprise, etc
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 save one's breath



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

save one's breath in Medicine




The air inhaled and exhaled in respiration.
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 save one's breath

save one's breath

Refrain from arguing about a lost cause, as in You can save your breath; I'm not going to change my mind. This term was also put as save your breath to cool your porridge (or broth), that is, by not blowing on the too hot liquid. The idea of not expending one's breath to say something another person doesn't want to hear dates from the early 1700s.


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.