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

Essential Meaning of inspiration

1 : 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 Where does the inspiration for your art come from? His paintings take/draw their inspiration from nature. See More ExamplesHer early childhood provided (the) inspiration for her first novel. Her courage is a source of inspiration to us all. [=her courage makes us all want to be more courageous] Her most recent plays seem to lack inspiration. [=they are not very original or creative] divine inspiration [=inspiration that comes from God]Hide
2 : a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something
3 : a good idea She had a sudden inspiration. They would have the party outdoors! Deciding to have the party outdoors was sheer inspiration.

Full 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

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 Now Bonnet's real-life escapades are serving as the inspiration for Our Flag Means Death, HBO Max's upcoming comedy about misadventure on the high seas, and EW has your exclusive first look. Devan Coggan,, 18 Jan. 2022 Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon are sharing the sweet cinematic inspiration behind the name of their baby boy. Georgia Slater,, 18 Jan. 2022 Here's some inspiration on where to buy a vacation home, from Hawaii and Mexico to Florida and South Carolina. Vanessa Wilkins, Travel + Leisure, 17 Jan. 2022 The tempting prizes also harken back to the original inspiration for Finders Keepers. oregonlive, 14 Jan. 2022 But at Good Good, the wide-ranging inspiration for the food is rooted in a big behind-the-scenes change: staffers now drive the ideas, part of the owners’ effort to create a more collaborative, equitable restaurant. Elena Kadvany, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 Jan. 2022 What was the inspiration for the key character in ‘After Blue,’ Katerina Buschowski, who calls herself Kate Bush? Martin Dale, Variety, 13 Jan. 2022 The late poet Maya Angelou gave Feinstein the inspiration for the country album. Melinda Newman, Billboard, 12 Jan. 2022 Her bestselling memoir, the inspiration for a 10-part Netflix series, recounts her journey from life as a $10-an-hour domestic worker to a budding career as a writer. Martin Wolk, Los Angeles Times, 11 Jan. 2022

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

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Inspiration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for inspiration


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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