take one's breath away, to

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take someone's breath away

 
1. Lit. to cause someone to be out of breath due to a shock or hard exercise. Running this fast takes my breath away. Mary frightened me and took my breath away.
2. Fig. to overwhelm someone with beauty or grandeur; to surprise or astound someone. The magnificent painting took my breath away. Ann looked so beautiful that she took my breath away.
See also: away, breath, take
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

take one's breath away

Astonish or shock one, with pleasure, surprise, or some other emotion. For example, That beautiful display just takes my breath away. This idiom alludes to the way one holds one's breath when overcome with sudden emotion. [Mid-1800s]
See also: away, breath, take
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

take (one's) breath away

To put into a state of awe or shock.
See also: away, breath, take
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

take one's breath away, to

To astound. This expression is pure hyperbole: one is so flabbergasted that one stops breathing. (The same idea is conveyed in the adjective breathtaking.) In the mid-nineteenth century Robert Browning used the term in Dramatis Personae (1864): “He never saw . . . what was able to take his breath away.”
See also: breath, take
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in classic literature ?
The great Admiral and good seaman could read aright the signs of sea and sky, as his order to prepare to anchor at the end of the day sufficiently proves; but, all the same, the mere idea of these baffling easterly airs, coming on at any time within half an hour or so, after the firing of the first shot, is enough to take one's breath away, with the image of the rearmost ships of both divisions falling off, unmanageable, broadside on to the westerly swell, and of two British Admirals in desperate jeopardy.