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 (or in the case of certain snakes, venom), 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 or their eyes 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 breathes 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.
- Light: Light, when focused into a point or narrow beam, can be a very destructive force. Light-based breath weapons consequently manifest in the form of lasers, although more diffuse radiance can also prove effective against creatures that are Weakened by the Light.
- 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.
- Sound: Some creatures and characters are capable of roaring, howling, shouting or otherwise vocalizing with sufficient volume to employ their voices as effective sonic weapons.
- Water: An ability often suited to an aquatic creature; indeed, many Eastern dragons in particular will likely have one due to their association with water. It often takes the form of a water spray similar to that from a hose, or a concentrated blast similar to a high-pressure water cutter. A variant may even combine this with fire to launch boiling water.
- Wind: Making the "breath" part quite literal, a creature need only take a deep breath before unleashing it as a gale-force blast of air that might as well be a tornado in form and/or destructive power.
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.
- Motu Patlu: In "Dragon Motu", Motu consumes a fire-breath capsule invented by Dr. Jhatka and gains the ability to breathe fire. He uses this ability to attack John the Don and his minions when he and Patlu run into them.
- Calvin and Hobbes: In one of the 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).
- 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.
- Adopted Displaced: In addition to his original ability to breathe fire, Spike acquires a variety of other breath weapons, including freezing breath (via Rundus), electricity (via Gandrayda) and Fazite breath, which is antithetical to Phazon.
- FateBlack Reflection: Kakolethros' Μηδέν (pronounced Midén, Greek for "Zero") is a stream of spiritual energy and mana that it fires fom its mouth. Although it bears a resemblance to the Cero used by Menos-class hollows, it's outright stated that it doesn't pack anywhere near as much of a punch due to Kakolethros' origins. Despite this, the technique is acknowledged as being a serious threat to a normal human or a magus.
- Half Past Adventure: The Grass Dragon has a powerful Acid Attack breath weapon, for some reason.
- Harry Is A Dragon, And That's Okay: As a dragon learning magic, in addition to his regular dragon fire (which isn't as strong due to his age), Harry has learned to cast some spells with his breath, usually fire-based ones like Bluebell Flames, the fire whip spell and even Fiendfyre, but also stuff like Aguamenti that allows him to breathe water, and even the Bubble-Head Charm.
- Hellsister Trilogy: During the war with Apokolips, Superman and Supergirl often use their ice-cold super-breath to freeze enemies and put out fires.
- 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.
- The Palaververse: Most dragons breathe fire, while certain blind and flightless specimens found deep Beneath the Earth breathe clouds of mind-clouding fumes and poison gas.
- Raindrop's Hearth's Warming Eve Miracle: The Pyrefrost Beowolf breathes both fire and ice.
- Rotting Camellias features Cul as a fire-breather who works in a circus.
- In The Siphon, the half-dragon girl Tia can breathe fire.
- 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.)
- Wyvern: Taylor has manifested three distinct form of fire breath: an explosive fireball whose size, "fuse" and power she can deliberately control, a narrow and extremely hot blue-white cutting torch, and a broader cone of flames.
- Hot Chip's video for "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.
- The Muppet Show: At the end of "A Nice Girl Like Me" in the Sandy Duncan episode, 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.