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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Launching in February, Robyn designed the sports/activewear line with her friend, the stylist Naomi Itkes, and with the cooperation of the house, which opened its archives to the pop star, who also raided her own closets for inspiration. Vogue, "Robyn on RBN, Her New Collaboration With Björn Borg; Being a Tomboy; and Starting Again From Zero," 30 Nov. 2018 Instead, Rockefeller and co-founder Andy Kratz have turned to the romance of travel for inspiration, sifting through 1980s back issues of National Geographic during their brainstorming process. Lale Arikoglu, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Everyone Wants an Away Suitcase," 26 Nov. 2018 Most North American brewers looked to traditional European brewing cultures for inspiration: British ales or Belgian or German beers, according to Shellhammer. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "How to get that great “hoppy” beer taste without the exploding bottles," 5 Oct. 2018 Or, peruse their offerings for inspiration and then build your own. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Right Way to Stack Firewood," 28 Sep. 2018 When decorating her gym, Oprea borrowed inspiration from her actual home, using the same colors—gold, black, and white—and similar accent pieces, including black chairs, a modern chandelier, and marble coffee table. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Build a Budget-Friendly at-Home Gym With These Tips From Celebrity Trainer Erin Oprea," 18 Nov. 2018 Take that into the next week as some elevated wardrobe inspiration. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "The 11 Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week: Pharrell, Naomi Campbell, Natalia Vodianova, and More," 17 Nov. 2018 As the story goes, when Segale came to Arakawa to demand payment for a late rent bill, inspiration struck. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Mario Segale, namesake for Nintendo’s mascot, dies at 84," 2 Nov. 2018 The feature adaptation expands on the premise, adding actors like multi-hyphenate Jay Duplass, Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal, and The Wire’s Andre Royo to the mix, while also holding true to the original short’s aesthetic inspirations. Bryan Bishop, The Verge, "Prospect is a stylish science fiction movie that puts world building first," 31 Oct. 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.

See More

First Known Use of inspiration

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inspiration

Share inspiration

Statistics for inspiration

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inspiration

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on inspiration

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inspiration

Spanish Central: Translation of inspiration

Nglish: Translation of inspiration for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inspiration for Arabic Speakers

Comments on inspiration

What made you want to look up inspiration? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!