Myth and folklore are replete with dragons and other creatures spewing fire, corrosive venom, noxious gases, energy beams, lightning, and other exotic and catastrophic exhalations from their mouth. More modern media have applied the motif to fantastic beasties, Kaiju, creatures from alien worlds, mutants, zombies, and even the occasional robot, and expanded the effects to encompass blazing beams of coruscant annihilation. In other words, bright things coming from the mouths of big things that can destroy other things.
Classically a trait of creatures that are, at least physically, animalistic — no matter how erudite and noble they may be. When humanoids vomit destruction from their mouths, they almost always have at least a hint of corruption or, at best, atavism about them. According to anthropologist David D. Gilmore, this is because of the mouth's symbolism as the organ of predation, evoking one mankind's primal fears of what used to hunt them. Given that a human being's only experience with oral expulsions is usually spit or vomit, it may then follow that anything coming out of the mouth is unpleasant. Whatever the reason, it's right up there with Glowing Eyes of Doom as a surefire sign of inhumanity. Heroes will generally emit blasts of destruction from their palms instead (though villains can do that too).
A number of Breath Weapons are especially common:
- Acid: While not strictly a breath weapon per se, acidic spit is often included in lists of breath weapons. A more breath-based version also exists where a character breaths out a cloud of corrosive mist instead.
- Fire: The archetypal and most iconic breath weapon, fire is almost obligatory for dragons and related creatures, although anyone with well-developed fire powers may also demonstrate this ability.
- Ice: Another common breath weapon, ice is often included as a direct inversion of the popular fire breath. The most common form is a gale of icy air that freezes everything it touches, but volleys of icy shards are not unheard of.
- Lightning: While also not a breath-based ability in the strictest sense, characters and creatures with strong enough ties to electricity are known to spit lightning bolts.
- Poison: Like acid, which may or may not be treated as the same exact thing, poison-based breath weapons can come both as jets of toxic liquid and as clouds of noxious gases.
A particular type of Street Performer or member of The Freakshow—known variously as a "fire-breather" or a "fire-eater"—uses the magician's sleight-of-hand to appear to do this. Such examples can go on this page as well, since such tricks can be extremely dangerous for both performer and audience.
Contrast Attack the Mouth.
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- Happy Heroes: The ice monster in Season 2 episode 11 and Penguin Monster in episode 40 of the same season both have ice breath.
- In Hsu and Chan "Pocket Morons Platinum", the Charmander-spoof Gila Mobster performs the Flamethrower attack by taking a swig off his flask & blowing it through the cigarette lighter he holds in his tail.
- In one of the Calvin and Hobbes Sunday comics, Calvin watches a Kaiju movie and later pretends to be a giant monster rising from the depths of his bathtub, shooting a "fireball" at his archenemy Megalon (read: spits water at his mom while naked).
- The Pyrefrost Beowolf in Raindrop's Hearth's Warming Eve Miracle breathes both fire and ice.
- The vocaloid fanfic Rotting Camellias features Cul as a fire-breather who works in a circus.
- Medeva and Beast Boy's dragon form in The End of Ends.
- In Origin Story, Alex Harris (a Kryptonian trapped in the Marvel Universe) uses her super-breath on Reed Richards to freeze him, thus nullifying his stretching capabilities. He compliments her on her creative thinking.
- Oskar Osäker: True Omnivore: Oskar/Emerald gains the ability to breath fire or plasma after consuming a Dragon that possessed the same ability.
- In Tales of the Emperasque the Emperor, upon merging with a Tarrasque, gets its powerful kinetic/fiery roar which he combines with his own psyker powers, creating a weapon that can cause class 2 Apocalypse How.
- What Lies Beyond the Walls has Gila the Putrid, whose breath is so toxic that he manages to bring a rat to his knees and makes him throw up profusely just after Gila exhales in his face.
- With Strings Attached:
- George, apparently an unlimited shapeshifter, does a red dragon and gets quite a bit of mileage out of his breath weapon during the battle on the Plains of Death.
- In The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World, George does several dragons to take advantage of their breath weapons, including a red dragon again to wipe out most of the Laser Bats, and a brass dragon to put a room full of giant centipedes to sleep. (He also puts John and Ringo to sleep because he talks nonstop while he's the brass dragon.)
- Hot Chip's crazy video for their single "I Feel Better" features an angelic being that can shoot lasers from his mouth, who uses it to kill the members of the parody boy band Hot Chip is portrayed as.
- At the end of "A Nice Girl Like Me" in the Sandy Duncan episode of The Muppet Show, Duncan — having downed an entire row of whiskies — breaths on the Muppet monsters and they all collapse from alchohol fumes.
- The "poison mist" used by many wrestlers, especially in Japan. According to Japanese Kayfabe, only certain wrestlers can do it because they have a special gland that allows them to produce the mist. Most wrestlers can produce only certain colors of mist, and each has its own effects: The most common, the green mist, blinds the opponent, the red mist both blinds and burns, the blue mist puts the opponent to sleep, the yellow mist paralyzes, and The Dreaded black mist is a career ender.
- Fire-breathing is a trivial feat in reality, but strongly associated with tooth decay. Many traditional fire-breathers use gasoline or kerosene, which even diluted causes instant halitosis and rapidly rots the teeth. High proof alcohols (150+) are better; though they can cause notable browning within a week of regular performance, the damage is reversible with more frequent brushing and taking time for the enamel to recover.
- Meet Giant Torayan. To quote the website: "This GIANT TORATAN doll is the ultimate child's weapon, as it sings, dances, breathes fire, and follows only those orders given by children." Thank you Japan, for bringing the world one step closer to the robot apocalypse.
- Spitting cobras spray their venom at animals they perceive as threats by squeezing it out of their fangs, as end of the venom groove points forward. Despite some species appearing to exhale as they do so, there's no evidence to show that this has any affect on the range or accuracy of the attack.
- Archer fish use their literal breath - at least, the water they also use as an oxygen-source - as a projectile, knocking insect prey off overhanging branches with squirts of water.