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February 5, 1982

Connotations of 'Breath'

JAMA. 1982;247(5):582. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320300012007

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To the Editor.—  I enjoyed reading the COMMENTARY "Of Breath and Spirits" by Gravenstein et al (1981;246:1091). In Japan we use not only Japanese characters (hirakana and katakana) but also Chinese characters (kanji). A Chinese character pronounced as ki, or ke in Japanese means "vapor," "air," "breath," or "primal aura," which is the essence of life as shown in the article. In Japanese, iki means "breath" or "alive"; iki o suru is "to breathe" and ikiru is "to live." "Animal" is iki-mono (living thing), which seems to come from iki-suru-mono (breathing thing). The main difference from English might be concerning "death." When somebody has breathed his last breath, we say that he "has received his breath" or "taken in his breath" (iki o hikitoru means "to die") instead of saying he "let out his breath." But we can also say iki ga taeru ("the breath ceases"), which sometimes means "to