What Does Catch Your Breath Mean?

To Catch Your Breath Meaning

Definition: To struggle with breathing normally; to rest and contemplate something for a brief period of time.

The phrase to catch one’s breath has a couple of different meanings in English. One is more literal and other is more figurative. The meaning may differ based on the context in which it is used.

The phrase is most commonly used in the literal sense, but it can also be used to mean that someone has gone through an emotionally challenging event or received difficult news. In this context, someone may need to catch his breath to rest or contemplate the news or event.

Ways to Use To Catch Your Breath

catch my breath meaningThis phrase has two meanings.

One of them is more literal than the other, and it means to struggle with breathing normally.

The second means to rest in order to contemplate something. When used in this context, to catch one’s breath means that someone has received some difficult news or experienced a challenging event and needs to take a moment to collect his or her thoughts.

Examples of To Catch Your Breath

how to catch your breathThe following conversation between an athlete and his coach illustrates the correct use of the literal meaning of this phrase.

Coach: Are you okay? You look like you’re about to faint.

Gary: Yeah, I’m fine. I just need a minute to catch my breath.

This sample conversation illustrates how this phrase is used to refer to emotional struggle.

Penny: How have you been? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.

Lola: Yeah, things are getting better. I just needed some time to catch my breath after the divorce.

More Examples

  • Even after getting on a breathing machine that day for about 20 minutes, he said, he “couldn’t catch his breath” and asked his sister to call 911. –The Washington Post
  • Having ditched her young family in Australia for reasons left unclear, 40-something Bea (Abigail Boucher) has escaped to the suburban London home of her friend Kate (Megan Kohl) to like her wounds, or at least catch her breath. –Chicago Tribune


The English phrase to catch one’s breath can be used in two different ways: one literal and one figurative.

  • The literal use expresses that someone has trouble breathing normally.
  • The figurative use expresses someone needs some time to think after receiving difficult news or going through a challenging event.