\ˈbrēt͟h \
breathed; breathing

Definition of breathe 

intransitive verb

1a : to draw air into and expel it from the lungs : respire broadly : to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes

b : to inhale and exhale freely

2 : to blow softly

3 : live

4 : to pause and rest before continuing

5 : to feel free of restraint needs room to breathe

6a : to permit passage of air or vapor a fabric that breathes

b of an internal combustion engine : to use air to support combustion

c : to be cooled or dried by air that passes by or through clothing that allows your skin to breathe

7 of wine : to develop flavor and bouquet by exposure to air

8a : to become perceptible : be expressed a personality that breathes and that distinguishes his work— Bennett Schiff

b obsolete : to emit a fragrance or aura

transitive verb

1 : to inhale and exhale breathe air

2a : to send out by exhaling

b : to instill by or as if by breathing breathe new life into the movement

3 : to take in in breathing breathe the scent of pines

4a : utter, express don't breathe a word of it to anyone

b : to make manifest : evince the novel breathes despair

5 : to give rest from exertion to

6 : to spend a great deal of time, thought, or effort on (something) : to be wholly devoted to (some interest or activity) The Virginia native may not breathe basketball 24-7 … but during games and practice, his focus is second to none.— Robbi Pickeral As with visiting companies, one of the key reasons for going to conferences is to avoid the tunnel vision that can overcome managers who live and breathe their business.— Leslie Brokaw

breathe down one's neck

1 : to threaten especially in attack or pursuit

2 : to keep one under close or constant surveillance parents always breathing down his neck

breathe easy or breathe easier or breathe easily or breathe freely

: to enjoy relief (as from pressure or danger)

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for breathe



Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of breathe in a Sentence

No one was more grief-stricken by Lincoln's assassination than Stanton, who spoke the imperishable words as the president breathed his last: "Now he belongs to the ages." — James M. McPherson, New York Times Book Review, 6 Nov. 2005 … The tinder burned all right, but that was as far as I got. I blew on it, I breathed on it, I cupped it in my hands, but no sooner did I add twigs than the whole thing went black. — Jean Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain, (1959) 2001 However, liquid nitrogen is not used for higher levels of fog because breathing this substance is unsafe. Dry ice is a safer material, and can be used either at ground level or higher. — Patricia D. Netzley, Encylopedia Of Movie Special Effects, 2000 Earth is surrounded by a life-giving gaseous envelope called the atmosphere. This thin blanket of air is an integral part of the planet. It not only provides the air that we breathe but also acts to protect us from the dangerous radiation emitted by the Sun. — Frederick K. Lutgens et al., The Atmosphere, 1979/2001 He was breathing hard from running. The patient suddenly stopped breathing. I can hardly breathe with all this smoke. He wants to live where he can breathe clean air. a dragon that breathes fire People usually contract the virus by breathing contaminated air. Breathe deeply and then exhale. I'll never give up as long as I'm still breathing. a living, breathing human being
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Aural detail is abundant, right down to the sound of Melvyn Bragg’s breathing in the background on the In Our Time podcast. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless review: sonic standout," 30 Nov. 2018 Photo: Chevrolet The ZR1 has no trouble breathing, thanks to the immense supercharger sticking through the hood. Dan Neil, WSJ, "2019 Corvette ZR1: The Last, and Best, of Its Kind," 28 Nov. 2018 Hantavirus is a pulmonary syndrome spread by rodents, and can be transmitted to humans by breathing in air contaminated with the virus when fresh droppings, urine or nesting materials are disturbed. Alexandria Hein, Fox News, "North Dakota woman dies from hantavirus after possible contact with rodent droppings," 27 Aug. 2018 Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a type of bacterium found in the environment and transmitted by breathing in a contaminated mist or vapor, occurring more often in hot and humid weather, according to health officials. Angie Leventis Lourgos,, "9 sickened by Legionnaires' disease across McHenry County; public health officials investigating," 11 July 2018 The court of public opinion and the baseball marketplace soon would roar to life breathing fire in ways the juvenile justice system couldn't match. Ron Richmond For The Oregonian/oregonlive,, "Inside Luke Heimlich's senior season with the Oregon State baseball team," 8 June 2018 The six children suffered contact burns from the ash cloud that erupted from the Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala, and were also examined for thermal burns to their airways from breathing in ash particles. Nick Powell, Houston Chronicle, "Guatemalan children burned by volcano arrive in Galveston for treatment with long recovery ahead," 7 June 2018 Physical activity, particularly while breathing in fresh air, helps me put it all in perspective. Alli Harvey, Anchorage Daily News, "When life gets too demanding, the outdoors is an escape hatch," 17 May 2018 Where those other headphones create a little chamber for your ear to reside in and breathe, Audio-Technica’s M50s make contact with the entire ear. Vlad Savov, The Verge, "Audio-Technica M50xBT review: better beats," 12 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'breathe.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of breathe

14th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for breathe

Middle English brethen, from breth — see breath

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about breathe

Statistics for breathe

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for breathe

The first known use of breathe was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for breathe



English Language Learners Definition of breathe

: to move air into and out of your lungs : to inhale and exhale

: to send (something) out from your lungs through your mouth or nose

: to take (something) into your lungs through your mouth or nose


\ˈbrēt͟h \
breathed; breathing

Kids Definition of breathe

1 : to draw air into and expel it from the lungs

2 : to take in by inhaling … Esperanza would take Mama's hands … and breathe in the fresh smell.— Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising

3 : live entry 1 sense 1 He still breathes.

4 : say entry 1 sense 1, utter Don't breathe a word of this.


\ˈbrēt͟h \
breathed; breathing

Medical Definition of breathe 

intransitive verb

1 : to draw air into and expel it from the lungs : respire broadly : to take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide through natural processes

2 : to inhale and exhale freely

transitive verb

: to inhale and exhale breathing fresh air

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on breathe

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for breathe

Spanish Central: Translation of breathe

Nglish: Translation of breathe for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of breathe for Arabic Speakers

Comments on breathe

What made you want to look up breathe? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!