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From Middle English brethen (to breathe, blow, exhale, odour), from breth (breath). More at breath.



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 use (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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      I am in health, I breathe.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Sir Walter Scott
      Breathes there a man with soul so dead?
  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. 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.
  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. (intransitive) To exchange gases with the environment.
    Garments made of certain new materials breathe well and keep the skin relatively dry during exercise.
  11. (intransitive, now rare) To rest; to stop and catch one's breath.
    • 1485, Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Book X:
      Thus they fought stylle withoute ony reposynge two owres, and never brethid []
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      Well! breathe awhile, and then to it again!
  12. (transitive) To stop to give (a horse) an opportunity to catch its breath
    At higher altitudes you need to breathe your horse more often.

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