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

It’s hard to do without someone calling out that it’s inspired by my mom. Alex Frank, Vogue, "Kendall Jenner On Loving Ugly Sneakers, Hating Boho Style, and the Fashion Secrets She Learned From Her Mom," 13 Feb. 2019 The movie, which comes out on April 12, actually started as Black-ish star Marsai's idea, after she was inspired by the Tom Hanks movie Big, according to ScreenRant. Claire Dodson, Teen Vogue, ""Little" Trailer Features Marsai Martin as a De-Aged Regina Hall," 9 Jan. 2019 The researchers say their new drone’s shape-shifting abilities were inspired by the movement of birds. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "A shape-shifting drone suggests the future of rescue missions," 20 Dec. 2018 The young royal stated her desire to visit the school as she is so inspired by the progress at the school– whose average grade in all years across all subjects was over 90% and academic results were four times the national average. Charlotte Chilton, Town & Country, "Princess Beatrice Supports Ethiopian School in Children's Education Initiative," 29 Nov. 2018 Marie Claire: What inspired you to write The Suspect? Rachel Epstein, Marie Claire, "Fiona Barton's 'The Suspect' Is an Intense Mystery Pulled from Real Life," 21 Jan. 2019 Rodriguez credits Carmen with inspiring her to travel and learn new cultures, religions, and languages. Jessica Radloff, Glamour, "Gina Rodriguez Says Feminism Is Shaping How Young Boys Think Too," 18 Jan. 2019 Watching this moment in history inspires me and so many of my peers to push past perceived boundaries and create new possibilities. Yara Shahidi, Teen Vogue, ""Yes She Can" Is the Yara Shahidi-Approved Collection of Stories From Young Women Staffers of the Obama White House," 14 Jan. 2019 What inspired you to be involved with the toy drive this year? Danny Murphy, Town & Country, "Real Housewives of New York Star Sonja Morgan Reveals Which Co-Star She'd Give Coal to This Christmas," 18 Dec. 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

18 Feb 2019

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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