breath and breathe - the difference

Breath (rhymes with death) denotes the air inhaled or exhaled during breathing. To breathe (rhymes with seethe) means to inhale and expel air from the lungs.

Writers occasionally confuse the words breath and breathe.


The word breath is a noun. It denotes the air that is either inhaled or exhaled during breathing. Colloquially, it can also mean a short pause (e.g., Take a breath and try again.) Breath rhymes with death.

  • Paul pinched his nose, took a breath and jumped off the boat.
  • He would fight until his last breath.


The word breathe is a verb. It rhymes with seethe. It has the following closely related meanings:
To inhale and expel air from the lungs.
  • Is she breathing?
  • (Note: Breathe drops the e when ing is added.)
  • Virtually all fish breathe through gills.
  • (Gills are a fish's lungs.)
To allow gas or moisture to pass through.
  • The new synthetic material can breathe to prevent moisture building up against the skin.
To impart (often used figuratively).
  • He breathed new life into the project.
  • He breathed a sigh of relief.
Select the correct version:



Native English speakers only tend to confuse breath and breathe in writing. Therefore, if you use the e on the end of breathe to remind you that the ea is pronounced EE (i.e., breathe rhymes with seethe), then you will eliminate this error.

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