inspire

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

Definition of inspire

transitive verb

1a : 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
2a 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
3a : to communicate to an agent supernaturally
b : to draw forth or bring out thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral
5a : 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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The article inspired her to attend her first recovery meeting. Marc Malkin, chicagotribune.com, "Jamie Lee Curtis opens up about being 20 years sober, going public with her addiction," 6 Nov. 2019 Its similarity to a vodka sauce inspired me to toss the leftovers (what little there were) with some pasta the next day for a quick and easy lunch. Anchorage Daily News, "Bombay South offers solid comfort food to beat that late-autumn slump," 6 Nov. 2019 Her desire to help others with severe food allergies inspired her to leave her successful and steady career. Georgann Yara, azcentral, "CertiStar menu software helps people with food allergies figure what’s safe to eat when dining out," 3 Nov. 2019 The amazing story of the 2019 Nationals has rightly inspired us to look at the highs and lows of Washington baseball over the years. John Kelly, Washington Post, "For black baseball fans, Griffith Stadium offered a ‘separate but equal’ experience," 2 Nov. 2019 On Lingthusiasm, McCulloch and Gawne dispel myths about language and inspire the kind of excitement that turns curious students into scientists. Mara Katz, Ars Technica, "Because Internet makes a linguist’s case for l33t speak, other online-text fads," 2 Nov. 2019 So almost like more organic sounding, but still electronic, and just pulling from the people that inspire me, like Animal Collective and Radiohead. 19. Kat Bein, Billboard, "20 Questions With Elohim: A Candid Conversation About Art, Anxiety and Alt Rock," 1 Nov. 2019 The plant closure in Lordstown, Ohio angered General Motors workers, who said the heartless announcement of the plan inspired them to strike the company and remain on strike for six weeks. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Ford-UAW deal includes closing Romeo Engine Plant, moving 600 jobs," 31 Oct. 2019 Her passion for cooking inspired her to create her own brand called Shayna's Kitchen, an online destination full of recipes, lifestyle and travel blog posts, wellness products, and more. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Ryan Seacrest's Girlfriend Shayna Taylor Shares the Story of How the Couple Met," 29 Oct. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of inspire

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

History and Etymology for inspire

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about inspire

Statistics for inspire

Last Updated

11 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for inspire

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for inspire

inspire

verb
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)

inspire

verb
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

inspire

verb
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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on inspire

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inspire

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inspire

Spanish Central: Translation of inspire

Nglish: Translation of inspire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inspire for Arabic Speakers

Comments on inspire

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

WORD OF THE DAY

the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!