In the modern period no absolute philosophical or scientific explanation was considered necessary regarding the nature essence and energies of what the ancients had generally dubbed the Life principle.
However in terms of recorded history the need the need to define Life Principle was felt from at least 3000 B.C. to late Renaissance so this called for appropriate names or words.
In a number of cultural languages the basic terms basic terms always had to do with breath since that is what living things did.
They also stopped breathing upon death at which time it was conceived that the breath of life departed from the physical body now empty of life principle.
After life principle departed the body was no longer animated and turned back into its material dust.