verb (used without object), breathed [breethd] , breathing.
to take air, oxygen, etc., into the lungs and expel it; inhale and exhale; respire.
(in speech) to control the outgoing breath in producing voice and speech sounds.
to pause, as for breath; take rest: How about giving me a chance to breathe?
to move gently or blow lightly, as air.
to live; exist: Hardly a man breathes who has not known great sorrow.
to be redolent of.
(of a material) to allow air and moisture to pass through easily: The jacket is comfortable because the fabric breathes.
(of the skin) to absorb oxygen and give off perspiration.
(of a wine) to be exposed to air after being uncorked, in order to develop flavor and bouquet.
verb (used with object), breathed [breethd] , breathing.
to inhale and exhale in respiration.
to exhale: Dragons breathe fire.
to inject as if by breathing; infuse: She breathed life into the party.
to give utterance to; whisper.
to express; manifest.
to allow to rest or recover breath: to breathe a horse.
to deprive of breath; tire; exhaust.
to cause to pant; exercise.
breathe down someone's neck,
to be close to someone in pursuit; menace; threaten: Police from four states were breathing down his neck.
to watch someone closely so as to supervise or control: If everyone keeps breathing down my neck, how can I get my work done?
breathe freely, to have relief from anxiety, tension, or pressure: Now that the crisis was over, he could breathe freely. Also, breathe easily, breathe easy.
breathe one's last, to die: He breathed his last and was buried in the churchyard.
not breathe a word/syllable, to maintain secrecy; keep a matter confidential: I'll tell you if you promise not to breathe a word.

1250–1300; Middle English brethen, derivative of breath

outbreathe, verb (used with object), outbreathed, outbreathing.
prebreathe, verb (used with object), prebreathed, prebreathing.

breadth, breath, breathe.

14. utter, tell, murmur, voice; reveal, divulge. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
breathe (briːð)
1.  to take in oxygen from (the surrounding medium, esp air) and give out carbon dioxide; respire
2.  (intr) to exist; be alive: every animal that breathes on earth
3.  (intr) to rest to regain breath, composure, etc: stop your questions, and give me a chance to breathe
4.  (intr) (esp of air) to blow lightly: the wind breathed through the trees
5.  (intr) machinery
 a.  to take in air, esp for combustion: the engine breathes through this air filter
 b.  to equalize the pressure within a container, chamber, etc, with atmospheric pressure: the crankcase breathes through this duct
6.  (tr) phonetics Compare voice to articulate (a speech sound) without vibration of the vocal cords
7.  to exhale or emit: the dragon breathed fire
8.  (tr) to impart; instil: to breathe confidence into the actors
9.  (tr) to speak softly; whisper: to breathe words of love
10.  (tr) to permit to rest: to breathe a horse
11.  (intr) (of a material) to allow air to pass through so that perspiration can evaporate
12.  breathe again, breathe freely, breathe easily to feel relief: I could breathe again after passing the exam
13.  breathe down someone's neck to stay close to someone, esp to oversee what they are doing: the cops are breathing down my neck
14.  breathe one's last to die or be finished or defeated
[C13: from breath]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1300, not in O.E., but it retains the original O.E. vowel of its source word, breath. Related: Breathing.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with breathe, also see as I live and breathe; breathing space; not breathe a word.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Each time you spray a standard cleaner on your counter you breathe in a fine
  mist of harmful chemicals.
The animals breathe at the surface and dive deep to feed on squid, .
Media companies try to breathe new life into physical products.
The mother guided her limp, gasping calf up to the surface to breathe.
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