af·​fla·​tus | \ ə-ˈflā-təs How to pronounce afflatus (audio) , a- \

Definition of afflatus

: 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 In 2003, powered by an afflatus of unknown origin, Barbour ran for governor of Mississippi. Neal B. Freeman, National Review, 19 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'afflatus.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of afflatus

1649, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for afflatus

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

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The first known use of afflatus was in 1649

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Cite this Entry

“Afflatus.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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