'Breath' vs 'Breathe': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on July 28, 2023

Are you looking for an explanation of the difference between 'breath' vs. 'breathe?' You came to the right place!

Here is the short answer: 

  • 'Breath' is a noun that means the air that you exhale when you breathe, an utterance, or a chance to rest. 
  • 'Breathe' is a verb that means inhale and exhale. 

Read the rest of this guide to learn the definitions, usages, and pronunciations of these words because whether you are learning English as a second language or working on your writing skills, knowing how to use words correctly will help you develop your skills.

What is the Difference Between 'Breath' vs 'Breathe?'

'Breath' and 'breathe' are versions of the same term. However, the grammatical part of speech changes depending on the spelling you use.

  • 'Breath' without an e at the end is a noun, while the latter is a verb. The noun version describes the air you exhale and inhale, a chance to rest or not worry about responsibilities or work.
  • The verb 'breathe' means to take a breath or inhale and exhale. So, although 'breath' and 'breathe' are similar in spelling and meaning, they differ in usage, pronunciation, and parts of speech.

Definition of 'Breath': What Does 'Breath' Mean?

The definition of 'breath' according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a noun that means:

  • Air filled with fragrance or odor

It can also mean:

  • A suggestion or slight indication
  • The act of breathing
  • A rest, respite, or chance to take a breath
  • The air inhaled and exhaled
  • Moisture or condensation caused by breathing
  • An utterance or auditory sound
  • Animation, life, or spirit

Synonyms of 'Breath'

  • Pause
  • Lull
  • Interval
  • Breather
  • Break
  • Respite
  • Interim
  • Intermission
  • Lapse
  • Interlude
  • Downtime
  • Vacation
  • Relax
  • Suspension
  • Finish
  • Cessation
  • Puff
  • Air
  • Waft
  • Breeze
  • Blow
  • Inhale
  • Exhale
  • Whiff
  • Airflow
  • Wind
  • Gale
  • Blast
  • Draft
  • Hint
  • Touch
  • Sign
  • Scent
  • Glimmer
  • Indication

'Breath' Sayings and Terms

  • Morning breath
  • Good breath
  • Shallow breaths
  • Bad breath
  • Take a breath
  • Breath of fresh air
  • Catch your breath
  • Garlic breath
  • Hot breath
  • Stale breath
  • Minty breath

Definition of 'Breathe': What Does 'Breathe' Mean?

According to the same reference, the definition of 'breathe' is a verb that means:

  • To inhale air into the lungs and exhale it back out

It can also mean:

  • To inhale and exhale without restriction
  • To softly blow air
  • To stop to rest before continuing or finishing a task
  • Alive
  • To feel free of restriction or restraint
  • To allow the passage of air or vapor
  • The use of air to aid combustion in an internal combustion engine
  • Exposing something to air to enhance the flavor and bouquet
  • To send out during exhalation
  • To give something life or animation
  • To take something in by inhaling it
  • To express or utter
  • To give rest to someone or something after a period of physical exertion
  • To be consumed or engulfed in an idea, activity, or passion

Synonyms of 'Breathe'

  • Respire
  • Snore
  • Snort
  • Sniff
  • Huff
  • Puff
  • Pant
  • Draw
  • Live
  • Be
  • Survive
  • Persist
  • Continue
  • Exist
  • Flourish

'Breathe' Sayings and Terms

  • Just breathe
  • Breathe easy
  • Take a breather
  • Calm down and breathe
  • Take a moment to breathe
  • Breathing hard
  • Labored breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Focus on your breathing

How to Use 'Breath' vs 'Breathe'

Now that you know the meaning of these terms and how they differ, let's look at when you use 'breath' vs 'breathe.'

  • Use 'breath' for the air that someone inhales and exhales.

For example, you might say:

Please back up; I can feel your breath on the back of my neck, which isn't very pleasant. 

  • Use 'breath' to tell someone to inhale.

As an example, I might tell you:

Take a deep breath and hold it for seven seconds before exhaling. 

  • Use 'breath' to refer to the visible vapor you exhale when it is cold outside.

For example, you could say:

It was so cold this morning that I could see my breath when I walked out the door. But now it is hot!

  • Use 'breathe' to tell someone to inhale and exhale.

So, you might say something like:

Calm down for a minute and breathe before you address your concerns. That way, you will be more level-headed. 

  • Use 'breathe' to say that you are taking something in.

As an example, you might hear someone say:

I just want to take a moment to breathe all of this in before I decide what to do next. 

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Breath' vs 'Breathe'

These terms are particularly challenging for some writers because they are very similar in spelling, but their pronunciation differs in their definitions and usages.

If you are like me, learning how to pronounce these terms correctly may help you remember which to use.

So, here is a short pronunciation guide to ensure you are saying each properly.

  • To pronounce 'breath,' use this phonetic spelling:


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'breathe':


Sample Sentence Using 'Breath' vs. 'Breathe'

Finally, here are some sample sentences using 'breath' vs. 'breathe.' Read them to ensure you can use both words in different contexts.


  • Take a deep breath and count to seven, then exhale for five seconds.
  • Baby's Breath is one of the most popular flowers used by florists, but it is never the focal point of the arrangement.
  • I noticed that you often hold your breath when you are working on tedious projects.


  • Everything is going to be okay, just breathe.
  • If you do not breathe for a long period, the lack of oxygen could cause significant brain damage or death.
  • That is why they tell people not to wrap anything around their necks or put anything over their heads that would obstruct their breathing.


  • When we were kids, we used to breathe on the car window and write messages in our breath.
  • If it is cold enough, you can see your breath when you breathe.
  • Carry got into a cedar chest while she was playing hide and seek with her friends, only to realize after she tried to take a breath that she couldn't breathe.

Recap: 'Breath' vs. 'Breathe'

You should have a firm grasp on the meaning, definitions, usages, spellings, and pronunciations of these words. But let's do a quick review of the difference between 'breath' vs. 'breathe.'

  • 'Breath' is a noun that means the act of inhaling and exhaling or the air that comes out of your mouth when you exhale.
  • 'Breath' can also mean a break after exerting work or a literal minute someone takes to breathe.
  • 'Breathe' is a verb that means to inhale and exhale or to take a break before going back to work.

No matter how much you learn about these terms, it can be challenging to remember the difference between them. So, if you need help in the future, return to this page for a quick review.

If you are curious about the proper meanings and grammatical uses of other English words, take a look at the confusing words section here. There are dozens of posts that will help you expand your vocabulary while learning critical grammar rules.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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