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gasped; gasping; gasps

intransitive verb

: to catch the breath convulsively and audibly (as with shock)
: to breathe laboriously

transitive verb

: to utter in a gasping manner


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plural gasps
: an act of gasping : a sudden loud intake of breath with one's mouth because of surprise, shock, pain, etc.
He let out an audible gasp at the sight of the snake.
a gasp of surprise
His eyes looked wild and strange from the fever; he trembled continuously, and each breath he took sounded like a gasp for life.Robert C. O'Brien
In the next hour Lemieux drew gasps from the crowd half a dozen more times …E. M. Swift

Example Sentences

Verb Mom gasped in surprise at the sight of my sister's new haircut. He gasped as he stepped into the icy water. a dying man gasping for breath She was gasping for air.
Recent Examples on the Web
There are ample opportunities to connect on an emotional level, making each other laugh and gasp with our stories. Tarot Astrologers, Chicago Tribune, 7 Jan. 2023 Now to November 29: Any beauty lover will gasp over Fenty Beauty's wild sale. Sarah Han, Allure, 28 Nov. 2022 Tour de France racers would gasp at the weight of a low-rider bicycle, but the owners don’t much care. Robert Scheer, The Indianapolis Star, 17 Nov. 2022 Humid air slowly retreats today, but get ready to gasp this weekend at the low humidity and beautiful blue skies. David Streit, Washington Post, 11 Aug. 2022 Folks would gasp as the bird launched into the air, perfectly timed with the soaring music. Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel, 28 July 2022 Brendan Mullin, who took pictures of the event, could hear children gasp when a Marine Santa entered a prekindergarten classroom. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 28 Dec. 2021 At the 7903-foot summit, the Turbo S's twin altitude compensators keep the engine at full tilt, whereas the 911 GT3's naturally aspirated 4.0-liter flat-six would likely gasp for oxygen. David Beard, Car and Driver, 20 Jan. 2022 Brendan Mullin, who took pictures of the event, could hear children gasp when a Marine Santa entered a pre-kindergarten classroom. Fox News, 26 Dec. 2021 See More

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

Word History



Middle English; akin to Old Norse geispa to yawn

First Known Use


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


circa 1529, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of gasp was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near gasp

Cite this Entry

“Gasp.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


: to draw in a breath sharply (as with shock)
: to breathe with difficulty : pant
: to utter with quick difficult breaths
gasp noun

More from Merriam-Webster on gasp

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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