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

Marvel Champions seems to take inspiration from both of those earlier FFG games while injecting some Marvel thematic flair into the mix. Aaron Zimmerman, Ars Technica, "The hottest new board games from Gen Con 2019," 10 Aug. 2019 Samsung appears to have a new Windows laptop on the way with a design that seems to have taken some inspiration from Microsoft. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "Samsung’s take on the Surface Laptop leaks out," 2 Aug. 2019 Taking inspiration from the title of your new song, can each member share her favorite dessert or sweet? Jeff Benjamin, Billboard, "EVERGLOW React to Billboard Chart Debut, Talk Representing K-Pop Globally," 30 July 2019 If a block party is out of your comfort zone or feels like too much of a lift on your busy to-do list, take inspiration from this successful village-building movement. Jennifer Folsom, NBC News, "Parenting is overwhelming – here's how to find your village," 26 July 2019 Tokyo took inspiration from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, which implemented a similar method of reusing electronics–such as TVs, computers, and keyboards—for their medals. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "The 2020 Olympic Medals Will Be Made from Recycled Gadgets," 26 July 2019 McNeal can take some inspiration from former MU teammate Wesley Matthews, who signed a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Steele, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Marquette's all-time scoring champ (for now) Jerel McNeal still has love for the game," 25 July 2019 Mimi, who, with the help of her stylist, originally took inspiration from Kelli Garner in the 2001 film Bully, has transformed the look, says Alex. Sara Radin, Teen Vogue, "Dyeing Your Hair Two Different Colors Is The New Trend We Can’t Get Enough Of," 24 July 2019 Taking inspiration from Dorothy Draper and David Adler door designs, Lindgren suggests finishing the door in a high-gloss paint. Elizabeth Mayhew, Washington Post, "Replacing an exterior door: Experts’ tips to do it right," 24 July 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

16 Aug 2019

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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 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

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


to shake or wave menacingly

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