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“Breathe” vs. “Breath”: Which is the Correct Word?

Breath is a noun that refers to the actual air taken in and out while we breathe (verb form of the noun breath).

"Breathe" vs. "Breath"
Can you see your own breath or breathe?


Is it, “see your own breath“, or breathe? If the appropriate word choice in the sentence above befuddles you (that is, the difference between “breath” vs. “breathe”), then let’s all just take a deep breath as we parse out the difference.



“Breathe” vs. “breath”

Breathe and breath are simply different forms of the same word; i.e., they belong to separate parts of speech:


Breath, (which sounds like breth), is a noun that refers to the actual air we inhale and exhale when performing the action (read: verb) of breathing, or inhaling and exhaling air from our lungs.



Breathe, (with an elongated “e”, like breeeth), is a verb that refers to the essential life-sustaining action of inhaling and exhaling oxygen to and from our lungs.



Sentences with breath and breathe

Sentences with the noun breathSentences with the verb breathe
His breath stinks of garlic.He breathed deeply before speaking again.

Because breathe is an action and verb, it has different forms based on its tense (e.g., breathe, breathed, breathing).



Phrases with “breath”

PhraseMeaning
With bated-breath Meaning don’t wait for something to happen or expect it to happen.
To waste one’s breath/a waste of one’s breath Meaning something is not worth discussing since it won’t be taken into consideration or acknowledgement.
Be holding your breath/don’t hold your breath Don’t wait around expecting that something will happen.
Catch a breath To give someone a chance to breathe, or a moment to catch their breath.
A breath of fresh air Said when something is refreshing or a welcome change from before.
All in one breath When someone says or does something extremely quickly.
Jungle breath Meaning terrible or foul-smelling breath.
Take a deep breath Literal; to inhale oxygen and exhale.
To swear under one’s breath To say something inconspicuously so as no one hears.
Take someone’s breath away For someone to be overwhelmed by intense feelings, usually of passion or love.
Keep your breath to cool your porridge Focus on your life and your own issues rather than dwelling on other people’s problems.
The breath of life Those things which we need to live and survive.


Phrases with “breathe”

PhraseMeaning
To be able to breathe freely again To feel relieved after dealing with something difficult or stressful.
To breathe new life into someone or something To reinvigorate something that’s become dull or monotonous.
Breathe one’s last breath To die; literal.
To breathe a sigh of relief To feel or show relief towards or about something.
Not a breathe a word of something To keep something a secret, not to mention it to anyone.
Eat, breathe and sleep To dedicate all of one’s time to something (sort of like how we are with Grammarflex!)
Breathe fire To strongly express anger towards someone or something.
As I live and breathe! An expression of amazement; similar to ‘Wow!’
Hardly have time to breathe To not have the time to do anything; to be short on time.
Breathe easyTo feel relief, perhaps after something stressful.



Synonyms of “breathe”

‍‍

  • inhale
  • exhale
  • draw in air
  • sigh

Origin of the word breath/breathe

Old English bræð “odor, scent, stink, exhalation, vapor” (the Old English word for “air exhaled from the lungs” was æðm), from Proto-Germanic *bræthaz “smell, exhalation”.

Read about other confusing words

Sources

  1. Breath, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  2. Breathe, Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, accessed on Oct 9, 2023.
  3. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of breath.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/breath. Accessed 9 October, 2023.
  4. “Breath.” TheFreeDictionary.com. 2023. Farlex, Inc. 3 Nov. 2023 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/breath
  5. “Breathe.” McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. 2002. The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 3 Nov. 2023 https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/breathe


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