I am a student of 10th grade, and I eagerly want to learn biology. What is the difference between respiration and breathing?

  • $\begingroup$ Think of respiration as ‘cellular respiration,’ which is the process by which the body extracts energy from glucose molecules. Breathing is the mechanism of the lungs that brings oxygen into the body and expels carbon dioxide. $\endgroup$ – lightweaver Apr 26 '15 at 9:51
  • $\begingroup$ It is good that you are eager but you should make an attempt to look for an answer before asking here. I did not vote to close this question because I know that there are certain misconceptions related to some subtle aspects of this topic, even amongst researchers. However you should at least do a google search and ask a specific question. Also, making a habit of putting in your maximum effort before asking for help would be good for you in the long run. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Apr 27 '15 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG i appreciate your suggestions and in future i will try to follow your suggested way. $\endgroup$ – NigHterz May 1 '15 at 9:54

There are two uses of the term respiration: physiological respiration and cellular respiration

Physiological respiration involves the intake of outside oxygen and its distribution to the tissues of the body. Breathing is a part of physiological respiration and functions to bring oxygen into the lungs and expel carbon dioxide.

Cellular respiration is a chemical process by which energy is obtained within individual cells from biomolecules like glucose. In aerobic respiration, oxygen is used. Cells can also use fermentation and, for some, anaerobic respiration to obtain energy.


Breathing is a part of respiration but respiration is not a part of breathing.

Breathing is a process through which oxygen is taken into the body for use in respiration. This involves physical movement to take oxygen (into the lungs) and also chemical action (haemoglobin-carries oxygen from lungs to blood and carbon dioxide from blood to lungs).

But respiration is a chemical process that involves the break down of the glucose that was formed during digestion to form energy (chemically, energy is Adenosine Triphosphate) for our everyday or metabolic processes.

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    $\begingroup$ thank you for your response . Your answer helped me a lot. $\endgroup$ – NigHterz Apr 26 '15 at 13:40
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    $\begingroup$ Your points and claims seems fine, but you can enrich your answer by adding references to it. $\endgroup$ – Jayachandran Apr 27 '15 at 4:22
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    $\begingroup$ Cellular respiration does not actually include breakdown of glucose $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Apr 27 '15 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG You write "Cellular respiration does not actually include breakdown of glucose –" <-- How can you say that , please give a source, particularly when Googling cellular respiration glucose, and tons of links come up saying it is involved. Google says straight away "Cellular respiration is the enzymatic breakdown of glucose" $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ @anuragak breathing is not necessarily a part of respiration, as some respiration doesn't require oxygen.. but besides.. who is to say that getting the oxygen that aerobic respiration requires, needs to be considered part of the definition of respiration? i.e. aerobic respiration could just be the chemical reaction that happens after the oxygen is in. $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 4:26

An addition to previous answers plus some clarification

The term respiration originally meant breathing i.e inhaling and exhaling (See here). It was believed that it is the oxygen and in turn the act of breathing is what lets an organism survive.

After substantial research it had been found that, in individual cells it is the ATP production by mitochondria that requires oxygen (as a terminal electron acceptor) and therefore for a cell, respiration is basically the electron transport chain (ETC).

Note that glucose or any other food molecule or its breakdown has got nothing to do with respiration. The process of glucose breakdown i.e glycolysis is not a part of respiration. TCA cycle is however considered a part of respiration because it is coupled with the ETC.

Later it had been found out that molecules/ions other than oxygen such as Fe3+, Fumarate etc, can also serve as the terminal electron acceptor. So cellular respiration expanded to include these cases as well; these fall in the subcategory of anaerobic respiration.

Note that fermentation also is a pathway that generates energy in the absence of oxygen but it is not considered respiration. It was previously classified as anaerobic respiration (if I am not wrong) but not any more.

So you can see that respiration which was originally synonymous with breathing now denotes a very specialized process. However, respiration is still used to mean breathing and distribution of oxygen in the body when cellular physiology is not in discussion.

  • $\begingroup$ who is to say whether glykosis is considered to be part of respiration or not? many links describe it to be the first step of respiration e.g. rsc.org/Education/Teachers/Resources/cfb/respiration.htm $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 4:21
  • $\begingroup$ can you define respiration? of course, breathing is not synonymous with respiration, as anaerobic respiration (what i've read fermentation to be!), doesn't require oxygen so doesn't require breathing. $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ furthermore, this article study.com/academy/lesson/… is an article that carefully describes aerobic respiration, and anaerobic respiration, and the place of fermentation.. $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @barlop re my second comment asking difference between fermentation and anaerobic respiration.. I've found the answer.. it's the same difference as between fermentation and any cellular respiration. Cellular respiration (aerobic or anaerobic), involves the ETC, which are a bunch of things in the inner membrane of mitochondria and are involved in a stage of respiration.. $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 19 '17 at 9:45

To my limited knowledge, I believe respiration is the chemical process of the body converting glucose and oxygen into energy, whereas breathing is the physical process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Breathing is somewhat like an "external" respiration.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your quick response. Is there any other difference? $\endgroup$ – NigHterz Apr 26 '15 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ @NigHterz I guess this answerer has just defined each, and the definitions are different, and that's all the difference there can be. $\endgroup$ – barlop Jan 1 '17 at 3:51

protected by WYSIWYG Apr 27 '15 at 12:36

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