Definition of breath in English:


Syllabification: breath
Pronunciation: /breTH


  • 1The air taken into or expelled from the lungs: I was gasping for breath his breath smelled of garlic
    More example sentences
    • This waif-like girl was sitting upright, gasping for breath with an oxygen cannula dripping blood.
    • As the oxygen mask reduced her need to gasp for breath, Mary relaxed a bit and reflected on her last, turbulent hour.
    • Gasping for breath at the top, I went into the bedroom and found that my respiration rate matched that of the patient.
  • 1.1An inhalation or exhalation of air from the lungs: she drew in a quick breath take three deep breaths
    More example sentences
    • When the treatment is finished, inhalation sedation wears off after a few deep breaths.
    • I was taking shorter breaths and getting exhausted quicker than the average person.
    • I have to take it in my stride and take a few deep breaths and manage it in the most mature way I can.
    inhalation, inspiration, gulp of air; exhalation, expiration; Medicine respiration
  • 1.2 archaic The power of breathing; life.
  • 1.3A brief moment; the time required for one act of respiration: in Las Vegas, they marry you in a breath
    More example sentences
    • In the breath of a moment before the clouds moved back over the moon the tension snapped.
    • One hour ago, he was alive, then, in a breath he was gone.
    • Our lives are over in a breath — teach us to count how few days we have.
  • 1.4 [in singular] A slight movement of air: the weather was balmy, not a breath of wind
    More example sentences
    • Yes, for an afternoon or two, a breath of wind passed through the university.
    • Then, he whispered, barely like a breath of wind, the last word that he would ever say.
    • The sun was pouring down, with hardly a breath of wind.
    puff, waft, faint breeze
  • 1.5 [in singular] A sign, hint, or suggestion: he avoided the slightest breath of scandal
    More example sentences
    • Nevertheless, priests and laity restored the mass at the mere breath of royal suggestion.
    • The writer added a breath of intrigue to the mystery surrounding the wizard.
    • Coy admissions of a relationship between the parties lent a breath of intrigue to the otherwise sedate election campaign.
    hint, suggestion, trace, touch, whisper, murmur, suspicion, whiff, undertone


a breath of fresh air

A small amount of or a brief time in the fresh air.
More example sentences
  • Try a breath of fresh air once in a while, it'll do you good.
  • Do yourself a favour: stop conversing with your cats, turn off the stereo, and get a breath of fresh air.
  • We see the the little heads of immature turtles coming up for a breath of fresh air.
A refreshing change: the company’s no-nonsense attitude is a breath of fresh air
More example sentences
  • But he was a breath of fresh air because he was brutally honest.
  • In an era in which kids’ films are condescending, this movie is a breath of fresh air.
  • She's like a breath of fresh air and he feels he can talk through his problems with her.

the breath of life

A thing that someone needs or depends on: politics has been the breath of life to her for 50 years
More example sentences
  • Yours is the house which decides the fate of the land, the house which gives the breath of life to the people.
  • In India, rice is often called the breath of life.
  • She poured some into the cap, cupping it into her hands and inhaling its warmth as if it were the breath of life.

catch one's breath

  • 1Cease breathing momentarily in surprise or fear.
    More example sentences
    • The pain wasn't too bad but it caught my breath.
    • As I walked out of our cottage, the sky caught my breath as I muttered a "thank you" to God for such a beautiful place.
  • 2Rest after exercise to restore normal breathing: she stood for a few moments, catching her breath
    More example sentences
    • Once the pain subsided, I was still panting and trying to catch my breath.
    • It felt like my chest tightened up and I had to struggle to catch my breath.
    • I crouched down behind a pile of broken stone to catch my breath.

don't hold your breath

informal Used hyperbolically to indicate that something is likely to take a long time: don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to clean up political action committees
More example sentences
  • But don't hold your breath to see it portrayed as such onscreen anytime soon.
  • So, if you are waiting for dramatic action against air pollution, don't hold your breath.
  • But don't hold your breath for a correction to appear in the nation's paper of record.

draw breath

Breathe in.
More example sentences
  • He talks knowledgeably and constantly, only drawing breath to puff on his cigarette.
  • This is the place for drawing breath, plus a long, cool lime juice.
  • Photographing them gives me an excuse to briefly draw breath and to rapture.

get one's breath (back)

Begin to breathe normally again after exercise or exertion.
More example sentences
  • She was still breathing hard, but was beginning to get her breath back.
  • In the car going over there I tried to breathe and couldn't get my breath.
  • She was shocked and screaming and could not get her breath.

hold one's breath

Cease breathing temporarily.
More example sentences
  • Remember to try tightening all your muscles, holding your breath, or breathing heavy.
  • This test involves breathing normally then holding your breath for as long as is comfortable.
  • Don't inhale deeply or hold your breath, just breathe normally.
Be in a state of suspense or anticipation: France held its breath while the Senate chose its new president
More example sentences
  • I know you've all been waiting for me while holding your breath in anticipation of some sort of great leader, but I'm not.
  • The answer, in case you were holding your breath, was a pretty resounding no.
  • There are still a lot of people holding their breath, wondering how this launch will go.

in the same (or next) breath

At the same time: he congratulated Simon on his victory but in the same breath dismissed it
More example sentences
  • I'd normally go a long way to avoid shows in which words like ‘engineering’ and ‘entertainment’ are used in the same breath.
  • I only came here so I could be mentioned in the same breath as him during the introductions.
  • Salzman celebrates and scrutinizes the policy in the same breath.

last breath

The last moment of one’s life (often used hyperbolically); death: she would fight to the last breath to preserve her good name
More example sentences
  • And in her last breath, her last moment of life, she looked around and I wasn't there.
  • I swung into the hall, prepared to fight to my last breath.
  • From the moment we are born until we take our last breath and die, it is like our life force.

out of breath

Gasping for air, typically after exercise: he arrived on the top floor out of breath
More example sentences
  • Panting, she was out of breath when she held out her hands and gripped onto his arms tightly.
  • Half an hour later Liz walked off the dance floor and flopped back into her chair, out of breath.
  • After about ten more minutes, they were nearly to the top and both of them were out of breath.

save one's breath

Stop wasting time in futile talk: save your breath; I know all about it
More example sentences
  • So these guys were the smart ones, getting it printed on t-shirts to save their breath for running.
  • He should heed his own statement from today and save his breath until he has something substantive to say.
  • The candidates, they suggested, should save their breath for the economy and health care.

take someone's breath away

Astonish or inspire someone with awed respect or delight.
More example sentences
  • She's an astonishing performer, she takes your breath away.
  • To feel such venom coming at you is so shocking it takes your breath away.
  • He slowly removed his sunglasses, revealing a pair stunning blue eyes that took Rika 's breath away.
astonish, astound, amaze, stun, startle, stagger, shock, take aback, dumbfound, jolt, shake up; awe, overawe, thrill, flabbergast, blow away, bowl over, stop someone in their tracks, leave someone speechless

under (or below) one's breath

In a very quiet voice; almost inaudibly: he swore violently under his breath Compare with sotto voce.
More example sentences
  • She swore softly under her breath as she began to push her way through the crowd.
  • She stared at the empty glass for a moment, and then swore quietly under her breath.
  • They chanted softly under their breath in a language said to have died with the ancient evils.

waste one's breath

Talk or give advice without effect: I have better things to do than waste my breath arguing
More example sentences
  • But they're wasting their breath, we're not about to sacrifice the principles we cherish.
  • So quit wasting your breath, forget her and move out of my way.
  • Stop wasting your breath and drive or else I'll do it myself!


Old English brǣth 'smell, scent', of Germanic origin; related to brood.

More definitions of breath

Definition of breath in:

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day kerf
Pronunciation: kəːf
a slit made by cutting with a saw