in·​spire | \ in-ˈspī(-ə)r How to pronounce inspire (audio) \
inspired; inspiring

Definition of inspire

transitive verb

1a : to spur on : impel, motivate threats don't necessarily inspire people to work
b : to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on was particularly inspired by the Romanticists
c : affect seeing the old room again inspired him with nostalgia
d : to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
2a : bring about, occasion the book was inspired by his travels in the Far East
b : incite
3a : to draw forth or bring out thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral
b : to communicate to an agent supernaturally
5 : to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of another
6a archaic : to breathe or blow into or upon
b archaic : to infuse (something, such as life) by breathing inspired into him an active soul …— Wisdom of Solomon 15:11

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Other Words from inspire

inspirer noun

More on the Meaning of Inspire

When inspire first came into use in the 14th century it had a meaning it still carries in English today: “to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural influence or action.” It’s this use that we see in phrases like “scripture inspired by God,” where the idea is that God shaped the scripture in an active and explicit way.

The meaning is a metaphorical extension of the word's Latin root: inspirare means "to breathe or blow into." The metaphor is a powerful one, with the very breath of a divine or supernatural force asserted as being at work.

The metaphor developed further, with inspire gaining similar but somewhat weaker meanings. Someone who is inspired by a particular artist, for example, is influenced by that artist in a way that animates or intensifies their own work. Something that inspires people to action motivates them. And if we say that something has inspired an emotion, thought, or idea, we are saying that it somehow had a part in its coming to be.

The word inspire has also drawn on the meaning of its literal root over the years, with meanings like "inhale," "to breathe or blow into or upon," and "to infuse (something, such as life) by breathing," but these meanings are not commonly encountered in modern use.

Examples of inspire in a Sentence

He inspired generations of future scientists. Her courage has inspired us. His discoveries inspired a whole new line of scientific research. Her first novel was inspired by her early childhood. The news inspired hope that the war might end soon.
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Recent Examples on the Web But the business also stemmed from Mims and his family believing that food brings communities together — even in the worst of times — to inspire lasting change and build a better future. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Founders of Mims SLC bakery believe changing the world begins with breaking bread," 17 Jan. 2021 Biden, now president-elect, hasn't commented on the prospect of getting a vaccine publicly to inspire confidence. Will Weissert, Star Tribune, "Ex-presidents would get vaccine publicly to boost confidence," 3 Dec. 2020 From shampoos and scalp conditioners to pre-shave, aftershave and beard treatments, Whitely said the products that win men over and inspire loyalty have both immediate and lasting impact. Sean Piccoli, NBC News, "Best men's beard and grooming products, according to experts," 2 Nov. 2020 The first infections, which arrive amid Bastille Day celebrations, inspire denial. Pasha Malla, The New Yorker, "“I Burn Paris” and the Temptation of Newly Topical Fiction," 30 Oct. 2020 Within every movement, there are fighters and diplomats, foot soldiers and storytellers, each using their particular skill sets to shift the narrative, inspire transformation, and create a brighter future. Barry Samaha, Harper's BAZAAR, "Alexi Lubomirski Combines Poetry and Photography in a New Book," 29 Oct. 2020 Subscribing to the Free Press is another way to support public service journalism and inspire change., "Apprentice program trains next generation of journalists," 27 Dec. 2020 Why Donovan Peoples-Jones should inspire confidence in coaches — The Browns used a sixth-round pick as a flier on Donovan Peoples-Jones, a former five-star prospect who was underwhelming at Michigan. Tim Bielik, cleveland, "5 Christmas presents for the 2020 Browns including Baker Mayfield and the Haslams: This Week in the Cleveland Browns," 21 Dec. 2020 Many public-health experts, including the head of Trump’s own vaccine initiative, said the president should be among the dignitaries who get the shots to inspire confidence in them. Jordan Fabian,, "Pence, Biden to Get Vaccine to Build Public Confidence in Shot," 16 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inspire.' 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 inspire

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1d

History and Etymology for inspire

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French inspirer, from Latin inspirare, from in- + spirare to breathe

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Time Traveler for inspire

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for inspire

Last Updated

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inspire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for inspire


How to pronounce inspire (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of inspire

: to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create
: to cause (something) to happen or be created
: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion)


in·​spire | \ in-ˈspīr How to pronounce inspire (audio) \
inspired; inspiring

Kids Definition of inspire

1 : to move or guide by divine influence
2 : to move (someone) to act, create, or feel emotions : arouse The Senator's comments inspired me to write a letter.
3 : to cause something to occur or to be created or done It was a people's movement, inspired by the courageous acts of ordinary citizens …— Christopher Paul Curtis, The Watsons


in·​spire | \ in-ˈspī(ə)r How to pronounce inspire (audio) \
inspired; inspiring

Medical Definition of inspire

transitive verb

: to draw in by breathing : breathe in : inhale the volume of air inspired

intransitive verb

: to draw in breath : inhale air into the lungs

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