inspire

verb
in·​spire | \in-ˈspī(-ə)r \
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

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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

She’s created a reptilian version that’s dotted with snake ornaments inspired by her love for OTT ‘80s fashion, an attention-grabbing accessory that’s likely to come slithering through your feed any day now. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Rihanna-Approved DJ Sita Abellan Launches Her Own Jewelry Line," 6 Dec. 2018 Gracing the December 2018 cover of W, Gigi channels the '80s and wears a beauty and fashion ensemble inspired by the singer Blondie. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Gigi Hadid Wore an ’80s-Inspired Beauty Routine for the December “W” Cover," 4 Dec. 2018 Posen also incorporated elements from Princess Eugenie's family crest, much like what was used in her wedding dress—a Peter Piloto gown that incorporated a design inspired by places and symbols important to the couple. The Editors, Marie Claire, "Princess Eugenie's Official Wedding Portraits Are Dazzling," 13 Oct. 2018 Tuesday night's episode kicked off with fun new dances (inspired by the glam and sin of Las Vegas) and ended with crazy elimination results. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Dancing With the Stars' Fans Are Fuming Over Last Night's Decision to Eliminate Danelle Umstead," 3 Oct. 2018 The rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for the poor and indigenous communities. Fox News, "India's top court refuses to release 5 rights activists," 28 Sep. 2018 After the singer posted a bunch of Legally Blonde–inspired teasers on social media, Reese Witherspoon—yes, Elle Woods herself—swooped in to give Grande her (probably well-perfumed) stamp of approval. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Reese Witherspoon Responded to Ariana Grande's Legally Blonde Post in the Most Elle Woods Way," 21 Nov. 2018 The first two Aquaman trailers didn’t inspire confidence, particularly among Ars staffers. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Hang on to your magical tridents, the final Aquaman trailer is here," 20 Nov. 2018 Nina Dobrev’s approach to fitness is both hardcore and sports-inspired. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "Why You Should Try Adding a Resistance Band to Your Treadmill Workout Like Nina Dobrev," 7 Nov. 2018

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 1a

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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Statistics for inspire

Last Updated

9 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for inspire

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

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More Definitions for inspire

inspire

verb

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 \
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 \
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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More from Merriam-Webster on inspire

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with inspire

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for inspire

Spanish Central: Translation of inspire

Nglish: Translation of inspire for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inspire for Arabic Speakers

Comments on inspire

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