in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce inspiration (audio) , -(ˌ)spi- \

Definition of inspiration

1 : an inspiring agent or influence
2a : the quality or state of being inspired
b : something that is inspired a scheme that was pure inspiration
3 : the act of drawing in specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs
4a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

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Other Words from inspiration

inspirational \ ˌin(t)-​spə-​ˈrā-​shnəl How to pronounce inspiration (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , -​(ˌ)spi-​ \ adjective
inspirationally adverb

The Inspirational History of Inspiration

Inspiration has an unusual history in that its figurative sense appears to predate its literal one. It comes from the Latin inspiratus (the past participle of inspirare, “to breathe into, inspire”) and in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is expiration (“the act or process of releasing air from the lungs”). However, before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity; this sense dates back to the early 14th century. The sense of inspiration often found today (“someone or something that inspires”) is considerably newer than either of these two senses, dating from the 19th century.

Examples of inspiration in a Sentence

Where does the inspiration for your art come from? His paintings take their inspiration from nature. She had a sudden inspiration. They would have the party outdoors! Deciding to have the party outdoors was sheer inspiration.
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Recent Examples on the Web Her participants also drew inspiration from humanity’s response to the pandemic, including our ability to change our behavior overnight. Sadie Dingfelder, Washington Post, "To cope with the current isolation, she sought refuge outdoors. She wasn’t alone in embracing the benefits.," 28 Dec. 2020 The artist drew inspiration from work that he's dreamed up in the past, including the 2019 campaign for Disney's The Lion King. Chelsea Hall, Marie Claire, "Makeup Artist Sir John Collaborates With Barbie to Dream Up Iconic Beauty Looks," 17 Dec. 2020 Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. Caitlin O'kane, CBS News, ""Powerful and inspiring": Elliot Page receives support and gratitude on social media after announcing he's trans," 2 Dec. 2020 Selections demonstrate how their creators drew inspiration from nature, using photographic technology to capture pictures that experimented with color and composition. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Has Photography’s Relationship With Nature Evolved Over the Past 200 Years?," 1 Dec. 2020 Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times, "‘Umbrella Academy’ star Elliot Page announces he is transgender in powerful statement," 1 Dec. 2020 Elliot will now be an inspiration to countless trans and non-binary people. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Juno and Umbrella Academy Star Elliot Page Announces That He Is Trans," 1 Dec. 2020 Jones drew inspiration from such an intimate-setting concert featuring Brian McKnight. Cheryl V. Jackson, The Indianapolis Star, "Mad Griddle restaurant in St. Clair Place will feature live jazz when it opens this spring," 25 Nov. 2020 Alexis Burnett, an undergraduate member of AKA at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN, said Harris is an inspiration to her. Taylor Crumpton,, "They Strolled To The Polls. Here’s How Kamala Harris’ Young AKA Sisters Feel About Her Victory.," 13 Nov. 2020

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

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First Known Use of inspiration

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

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Time Traveler for inspiration

Time Traveler

The first known use of inspiration was in the 14th century

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Statistics for inspiration

Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inspiration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for inspiration


How to pronounce inspiration (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inspiration

: something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone
: a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
: a good idea


in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin-spə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce inspiration (audio) \

Kids Definition of inspiration

1 : the act or power of arousing the mind or the emotions the inspiration of music
2 : a clever idea While deciding on a costume, I had an inspiration.
3 : something that moves someone to act, create, or feel an emotion Mountains were the painter's inspiration.


in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spir-ˈā- How to pronounce inspiration (audio) \

Medical Definition of inspiration

: the drawing of air into the lungs

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Comments on inspiration

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