PECH verb, to be out of breath, to pant.
Pech as ‘To breathe quickly and in a laboured way, to pant with exertion’, and it is in this last sense that it is most used today. An early example dates from the sixteenth century: “He will tye the burthen of them on their owne backes whilest they grone and peach” from Robert Rollock’s On the Passion.
Moving forwards through the centuries, in 1754 we find “At last, wi’ great peching an’ granin, we gat it up with a pingle [an effort]” from Robert Forbes’ A Journal from London to Portsmouth; and a character in Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) declares: “I hae been short-breathed ever since, and canna gang twenty yards without peghing like a miller’s aiver [an old carthourse]”. A more modern example is from Ian Rankin’s Strip Jack (1992): “By the time he reached the second floor, he was peching and remembering exactly why he liked living in Patience’s basement”. The fact that pech appears quite at home in a sentence that is otherwise in English, is perhaps evidence that it is widely used.
As a noun, a pech is a laboured breath or gasp. John White in his Jottings in Prose and Verse (1879) refers to “…the old man’s severe and continued pech-pech”. And predictably, the phrase out o pech means out of breath.