in·spi·ra·tion | \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spi-\

Definition of inspiration 

1a : 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

2 : the act of drawing in specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs

3a : the quality or state of being inspired

b : something that is inspired a scheme that was pure inspiration

4 : an inspiring agent or influence

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Other Words from inspiration

inspirational \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shnəl, -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

Former House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon scripted the drama, which draws inspiration from the book Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy. Jillian Forstadt, The Hollywood Reporter, "Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie Face Off for Throne in 'Mary Queen of Scots' Trailer," 12 July 2018 Like many tech entrepreneurs, Lei admits to drawing inspiration from Steve Jobs’ founding of Apple in 1976. Charlie Cambell/beijing, Time, "Lei Jun Wants to Be China’s Answer to Steve Jobs. But Trump’s Trade War Is Getting In His Way," 12 July 2018 And the 1978 Superman film drew inspiration from the adult humor of 1930s fast-talking screwball comedies, with Clark Kent / Superman (Christopher Reeve) and hard-nosed reporter Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) exchanging witty quips between super-flights. Noah Berlatsky, The Verge, "The best superhero stories admit that superheroes are ridiculous," 11 July 2018 Drawing inspiration from Zeus' fur, the silhouette features a dark gray upper and premium leather detailing. Demetrio Teniente, Houston Chronicle, "With adidas James Harden has plenty of room to create," 4 July 2018 Markle appeared to be drawing inspiration from Audrey Hepburn (much like on her wedding day) wearing another dress by Givenchy. Chrissy Rutherford, Harper's BAZAAR, "Duchess Meghan Channels Audrey Hepburn for Royal Ascot Debut," 19 June 2018 As actual brides-to-be are attempting to draw inspiration from Markle's subtle, natural wedding-day look, beauty vlogger Promise Tamang transformed herself directly into the Duchess of Sussex herself. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "Makeup Vlogger Promise Tamang Transformed Herself Into Meghan Markle on Her Wedding Day," 18 June 2018 Baker, a prominent gay rights activist, gave a nod to the stripes of the American flag but drew inspiration from the rainbow to reflect the many groups within the gay community. Ayana Archie And Brandon Griggs, CNN, "It's Pride Month. Here's what you need to know," 13 June 2018 Ramona Young draws inspiration from two main sources. Brett Anderson,, "Yes indeed, Lord: Queen's Cuisine, where everything comes from the heart," 6 June 2018

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 1a

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Phrases Related to inspiration

divine inspiration

Statistics for inspiration

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for inspiration

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

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More Definitions for inspiration



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 \

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- \

Medical Definition of inspiration 

: the drawing of air into the lungs

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Comments on inspiration

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