The following sentence is quoted from NBC NEWS. When being asked about the mood in the West Wing of the White House, the journalist said:

Well, in talking with some of the staff members here, you get the sense that there has been an exhale. The mood is certainly quiet. And many have not been in the offices. We expect that the president might get some more fresh air today.

What does "there has been an exhale" mean?

Update: I didn't notice that there is a mention of "the president's chief of staff got Covid" before the conversation, so Colin's answer of "everybody has been holding their breath" is definitely correct. Sorry for the confusion.

1 Answer 1


Exhale (which is not often used as a noun, but can be) means "breathing out".

The implication is that everybody has been holding their breath, and have at least let it go.

  • English is not my first language. I didn't get that what does it mean by "everybody has been holding their breath" here. Does it mean the White House is quiet? What mood does it imply? Anxious or relaxed or just don't speak? Could you explain a little more please?
    – Frank Mi
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 22:02
  • @FrankMi please see hold one's breath: Be excited, anxious, or nervous. For example, "The election was so close that I held my breath until the final results were in." Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 22:18
  • @WeatherVane In your specific context, it is somehow easy to understand. Back to the context in my question, can I understand it as "no one wants to speak" or "feel pretty bad"?
    – Frank Mi
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 22:25
  • 1
    @FrankMi: I understand as "everybody is feeling hugely relieved" (from the removal of pressure, not necessarily from the outcome)
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 9, 2020 at 23:04

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