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

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

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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 Along with Merchant and Jacoby, the 2020 West Post 1 Legion baseball team was awarded the Trajan Langdon Youth Award, which goes to a team or individual who demonstrates integrity, inspiration and sportsmanship. Anchorage Daily News, "Swimmer Lydia Jacoby, runner Tristian Merchant collect Pride of Alaska awards as Alaska’s top youth athletes," 5 May 2021 The designer Raquel Cajiga, who splits her time between Mexico City and Oaxaca and delivers to both areas, finds inspiration — and often unusual plants — in the majestic mountain landscapes of southern Mexico. New York Times, "T Black Book: Where to Find Exceptional Flowers in Six Different Cities," 4 May 2021 But there was a more apt, if less known, formal inspiration for White, made by William Merritt Chase. Judith H. Dobrzynski, WSJ, "More Than Fun and Games," 30 Apr. 2021 There is nothing wrong with grabbing a little inspiration from the Internet and these creatives brought the best style. Nandi Howard And Danielle Wright, Essence, "The Best Dressed Black Creatives On Instagram This Week," 30 Apr. 2021 Below, some inspiration for yourself, and your marine biologist in-training. Ella Riley-adams, Vogue, "It’s Time to Bring an Octopus Into Your Family," 28 Apr. 2021 Sunday night’s Oscars after-parties, which followed one of the first true IRL award shows since the pandemic took hold, offered up a share of going-out outfit inspiration as well. Eliza Huber,, "Goodbye Sweatpants, Hello Sequins: The Era Of Party Clothes Is Almost Here," 28 Apr. 2021 Crate attributes her graphic design skill is an accumulation of inspiration and knowledge gained from professors and different people along the way. Lyndi Mcnulty,, "An Eye for Art: Sykesville minister uses art as ‘a way to connect with my creator’," 23 Apr. 2021 In today’s era of social media overuse, there is no shortage of plant-y inspiration to drain your bank account. Tracey Lindeman, Fortune, "Plants, plants, plants: The social media plant craze," 22 Apr. 2021

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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Time Traveler for inspiration

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for inspiration

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inspiration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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

Comments on inspiration

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