What Does Take a Breather Mean?

Take a Breather Meaning

Definition: To take a break.

Origin of Take a Breather

Breather, in the sense of resting to recover one’s breath, originated in the early 1900s. Before that, it had the literal meaning of one who breathes, which dates all the way back to before the 1600s.

In the 1800s, it had another meaning, a bout of exercise to encourage faster breathing. However, this meaning is no longer common.

To understand the idea behind this idiom, imagine exercising vigorously for an hour. You would feel exhausted and out of breath. You would need a little time to catch your breath by just relaxing.

While it’s common to use this expression for a time when you need to physically recover your breath, it is also used for breaks from things are not necessarily physically strenuous.

See also breath vs. breathe.

Examples of Take a Breather

taking a breatherIn this example, two sisters are organizing everything in their house.

Amy: Well, I separated everything in the basement into three piles. One pile shows what is trash, another is for things to donate, and a third is for stuff to keep.

Kimberly: Great! I did the same for everything in the attic. It seems like we can get rid of a lot of stuff. That will help us to keep the house clean more easily.

Amy: Yeah. We made some good progress. I think we’ve earned the right to take a breather.

Kimberly: Yeah! I could use a rest. I’m tired from moving all this stuff again. A break will also give the dust time to settle.

define breatherIn the second example, two friends are trying to write a business plan for the new company they want to start.

Keira: I think our new marketing company is going to be great. We’ve already chosen our logo and gotten a lot of the business plan finished.

Rory: Yeah! We got a lot done already today. We still have a long way to go though.

Keira: Do you think we should take a little breather? I think if we take a quick break, we’ll feel refreshed and finish the remaining work more quickly.

Rory: That sounds like a good idea to me.

More Examples

This excerpt is about members of a band that took a break from working together.

  • But then the Brooklyn-based thirtysomethings decided to take a breather, going through marriages, divorces, kids and solo projects as half the crew relocated to the West Coast. –USA Today

This excerpt is about a restaurant in Mexico City.

  • Take a breather from the bustling market with a wine-fueled lunch at Amaya. Owned by restaurateur Jair Téllez, the eatery pours natural, organic and biodynamic wines from Mexican and Latin American producers alongside delicious wood-fired dishes such as roasted cauliflower with tahini guacamole. –USA Today


The phrase take a breather means to relax for a time.