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From Middle English brethen (to breathe, blow, exhale, odour), derived from Middle English breth (breath). Eclipsed Middle English ethien and orðiæn, from Old English ēþian and orþian (to breathe); as well as Middle English anden, onden, from Old Norse anda (to breathe). More at breath.


  • enPR: brēth, IPA(key): /bɹiːð/
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  • Rhymes: -iːð


breathe (third-person singular simple present breathes, present participle breathing, simple past and past participle breathed)

  1. (intransitive) To draw air into (inhale), and expel air from (exhale), the lungs in order to extract oxygen and excrete waste gases.
  2. (intransitive) To take in needed gases and expel waste gases in a similar way.
    Fish have gills so they can breathe underwater.
  3. (transitive) To inhale (a gas) to sustain life.
    While life as we know it depends on oxygen, scientists have speculated that alien life forms might breathe chlorine or methane.
  4. (intransitive, figuratively) To live.
    I will not allow it, as long as I still breathe.
  5. (transitive) To draw something into the lungs.
    Try not to breathe too much smoke.
  6. (intransitive) To expel air from the lungs, exhale.
    If you breathe on a mirror, it will fog up.
  7. (transitive) To exhale or expel (something) in the manner of breath.
    The flowers breathed a heady perfume.
    • 2012, Timothy Groves, The Book Of Creatures (→ISBN), page 85:
      Mountain Drakes breathe fire, Ice Drakes breathe ice, Swamp Drakes breathe acid, and Forest Drakes breathe lightning.
  8. (transitive) To give an impression of, to exude.
    The decor positively breathes classical elegance.
  9. (transitive) To whisper quietly.
    He breathed the words into her ear, but she understood them all.
  10. To pass like breath; noiselessly or gently; to emanate; to blow gently.
    The wind breathes through the trees.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      The air breathes upon us here most sweetly.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Byron
      There breathes a living fragrance from the shore.
  11. (intransitive) To exchange gases with the environment.
    Garments made of certain new materials breathe well and keep the skin relatively dry during exercise.
  12. (intransitive, now rare) To rest; to stop and catch one's breath.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter lxiiij, in Le Morte Darthur, book X:
      Thenne they lasshed to gyder many sad strokes / & tracyd and trauercyd now bakward / now sydelyng hurtlyng to gyders lyke two bores / & that same tyme they felle both grouelyng to the erthe / Thus they fought styll withoute ony reposynge two houres and neuer brethed
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      Well! breathe awhile, and then to it again!
  13. (transitive) To stop, to give (a horse) an opportunity to catch its breath.
    At higher altitudes you need to breathe your horse more often.
  14. (transitive) To exercise; to tire by brisk exercise.
  15. (transitive, figuratively) To passionately devote much of one's life to (an activity, etc.).
    Do you like hiking? Are you kidding? I breathe hiking.



Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from breathe

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.