Breath vs. Breathe: What’s the Difference?

Both breath and breathe have something to do with air in our lungs, but each word has a different function in the sentence.

One refers to the air itself, and the other is the action of inhaling and exhaling.

  • Stopping abruptly, he said, “I need to catch my breath.”
  • While scuba diving, he used compressed air to breathe.

The short answer is that breath is a noun, and breathe is a verb, but I will go into more detail below.

What is the Difference Between Breath and Breathe?

In this post, I want to compare breath vs. breathe. I will go over the definitions of each word and how they function in a sentence. Plus, at the end, I will give you a trick to remember the difference.

After reading this post, you won’t ever again wonder to yourself, “Is it spelled breath or breathe?”

When to Use Breath

breathe definition and breath definitionWhat does breath mean? Breath (pronounced breth) is a noun and refers to the air inhaled or exhaled out of one’s lungs.

  • Take a breath; it will be okay.
  • Your breath smells like cheese. Have you eating cheese today?
  • Do you think Eric will be on time today? Don’t hold you breath.
  • The annual spiritual validation on mainstream television is a breath of fresh air. –The Wall Street Journal

Breath refers to the actual air that is either inhaled or exhaled from one’s lungs. As I mentioned above, it is pronounced as breth (rhymes with death).

Common Phrases That Use Breath

Here are a few common phrases and idioms that use the word breath.

  • In the same breath: at, or almost at, the same time.
  • Out of breath: breathing with difficultly, gasping for air.
  • Under one’s breath: In a muted voice or whisper.
  • Save your breath: don’t bother or waste your time.
  • A breath of fresh air: a brief moment in the fresh air; a welcomed site.
  • Take someone’s breath away: astonish someone with awed respect or delight.

When to Use Breathe

how do you spell breatheWhat does breathe mean? Breathe (pronounced breeth) is a verb and to breathe is the action of inhaling and exhaling air using the lungs.

  • After the race, I could hardly breathe.
  • If you replace this dirty air filter, your can will be able to breathe better.
  • She breathed on the window and it fogged up.
  • Let me preface this by saying that there are few more passionate football fans than me. I live and breathe by the fate of the New York Jets. –New York Post

Breathe doesn’t refer to air itself; instead, it refers to the action of inhaling and exhaling air from one’s lungs.

Breath is also pronounced differently that breath. Breathe is pronounced as breeth (rhymes with seethe).

Common Phrases That Use Breathe

As with breath, breathe is used in many common English phrases.

  • To breathe down someone’s neck: follow close behind or constantly check up one.
  • Breathe easily/freely: relaxed after a period or tension.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief: exhale noisily as a sign of relief.
  • Breathe one’s last: a euphemism for death.
  • Breathe new life: fill with enthusiasm and renewed spirit.

Breathable or Breatheable?

The correct spelling is breathable, without the “e.”

  • These are an excellent pair of breathable running shoes. (Correct)
  • These are an excellent pair of breatheable running shoes. (Incorrect)

Trick to Remember the Difference

define breathe and define breathHere is a useful trick to remember breathe vs. breath. If you use this as a memory check when you go to use these words, you will be all set.

Trick: Think of the extra “e” in breathe as standing for exhale. To breathe is to exhale.

Also, here are a few fun sentences I thought of that incorporate both words.

  • It’s so cold that if you breathe you can see your breath.
  • He breathed heavily trying to catch his breath.

Summary

Is it breathe or breath? The spelling, of course, depends on your sentence. Do you need a noun or a verb?

Breath is a noun and refers to the air that it inhaled or exhaling while breathing.

Breathe is a verb and is the action of inhaling or exhaling.