verb in·spire \ in-ˈspī(-ə)r \
|Updated on: 5 Aug 2018

Definition of inspire

inspired; inspiring
1 a : to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
b : to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on
  • was particularly inspired by the Romanticists
c : to spur on : impel, motivate
  • threats don't necessarily inspire people to work
d : affect
  • seeing the old room again inspired him with nostalgia
2 a 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
3 a : to communicate to an agent supernaturally
b : to draw forth or bring out
  • thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral
4 : inhale 1
5 a : bring about, occasion
  • the book was inspired by his travels in the Far East
b : incite
6 : to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of another



Examples of inspire in a Sentence

  1. He inspired generations of future scientists.

  2. Her courage has inspired us.

  3. His discoveries inspired a whole new line of scientific research.

  4. Her first novel was inspired by her early childhood.

  5. The news inspired hope that the war might end soon.

Recent Examples of inspire from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of inspire

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

INSPIRE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of inspire for English Language Learners

  • : 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)

INSPIRE Defined for Kids


verb in·spire \ in-ˈspīr \

Definition of inspire for Students

inspired; inspiring
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

Medical Dictionary


verb in·spire \ in-ˈspī(ə)r \

medical Definition of inspire

inspired; inspiring
: to draw in by breathing : breathe in : inhale
  • the volume of air inspired
: to draw in breath : inhale air into the lungs

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having an air of easy unconcern

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