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

Long before the rigid German airships that would bear his name patrolled the skies, a young Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin found early inspiration for his aeronautical adventures in downtown St. Paul. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "Downtown St. Paul public art commemorates Zeppelin creator’s first hot-air balloon ride," 17 June 2019 This time, older residents have found inspiration in Hong Kong’s youth, who have been a driving force in the fight to preserve the territory’s autonomy and local identity using technology and impeccable organization. David Pierson,, "Huge crowds of Hong Kong protesters call for leader to resign," 16 June 2019 This time, older residents have found inspiration in Hong Kong’s youth, who have been a driving force in the fight to preserve the territory’s autonomy and local identity using technology and impeccable organization. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Huge crowds of Hong Kong protesters call for leader to resign," 16 June 2019 The movement Seurat kick-started with this painting—Neo-Impressionism—drew inspiration from the scientific study of how our vision works. Tim Vernimmen, Smithsonian, "Our Eyes Are Always Darting Around, So How Come Our Vision Isn’t Blurry?," 14 June 2019 With so many people and places from which to draw inspiration, her art truly has a personal feel to it that can warm up any home. Ap Mcclatchy, The Mercury News, "Meet the artist: Jill Opelka," 12 June 2019 Dana Giordano for Citius Mag: Grunewald was an inspiration and a hero., "On the inspirational Gabe Grunewald, and Galen Rupp’s return: Oregon track & field rundown," 12 June 2019 The Crusades myth always contained a noxious seed—inspiration for white nationalism—that has flourished in recent years. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Who Owns the Crusades?," 11 June 2019 Into the new millennium, the influence and inspiration of the tradition can be seen in the cultural essays of Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Doreen St. Félix. Michael Gonzales, Longreads, "It’s Like That: The Makings of a Hip-Hop Writer," 10 June 2019

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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Statistics for inspiration

Last Updated

21 Jun 2019

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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 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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showing courage and determination

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