af·​fla·​tus ə-ˈflā-təs How to pronounce afflatus (audio)
: a divine imparting of knowledge or power : inspiration

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Inspiration might be described as a breath of fresh air, and so it is appropriate that inspire derives in part from a word meaning "to breathe"—Latin spirare. Afflatus is a lesser-known word for inspiration that followed a parallel route. Afflatus, which in Latin means "the act of blowing or breathing on," was formed from the prefix ad- ("to, toward") and the Latin verb flare ("to blow"). That Latin verb gave us such words as inflate and (via French) soufflé. The Roman orator Cicero used afflatus in his writings to compare the appearance of a new idea to a breath of fresh air. Nowadays, one often finds the word preceded by the adjective divine, but poets and artists can find afflatus in the material world as well.

Examples of afflatus in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But the French President picked a terrible moment this weekend for a Gaullist afflatus following his meeting with Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping. The Editorial Board,, 9 Apr. 2023 In 2003, powered by an afflatus of unknown origin, Barbour ran for governor of Mississippi. Neal B. Freeman, National Review, 19 Dec. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'afflatus.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Latin afflātus, literally, "emission of breath, exhalation," from afflāre "to breathe on or toward, inspire" (from ad- ad- + flāre "to blow, breathe") + -tus, suffix of verbal action — more at blow entry 1

First Known Use

1649, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of afflatus was in 1649


Dictionary Entries Near afflatus

Cite this Entry

“Afflatus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

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