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 image of screaming girls at boy band concerts has surpassed cliche to the point of almost not being worth mentioning, except to serve as evidence that no matter where, when, or how, art and entertainment will inspire people to come together. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "The Good, The Bad, The Loud: Welcome To Fandom Fridays," 8 June 2019 His interactions with combat veterans inspired the founding of Shelter to Soldier in 2012. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Service dog made veteran’s first pitch at Padres game possible," 7 June 2019 The video has inspired the hashtag #NoPerfectVictim in China. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, "Illinois Almost Follows in California's Board Footsteps: The Broadsheet," 7 June 2019 Nelson, Lesh and Krauss are each expert collaborators, having made big parts of their careers working with other ultra-talented performers, augmenting, supporting, inspiring, and tastefully adding their part. John Adamian, courant.com, "Willie Nelson to helm Outlaw Music Festival, with Alison Krauss and Phil Lesh, at Xfinity," 7 June 2019 But his family hopes that his Instagram account brings people joy, and maybe, just maybe, inspires others to adopt a rescue pup. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "WATCH: Rescued from Life of Abuse, Taco-Loving Dog Becomes Internet Sensation," 7 June 2019 As a result, millions of Britons went to bed that night fired up and inspired, proud to be part of such a confident, inventive and quirky country. Jonathan Coe, Time, "How Brexit Broke Britain and Revealed a Country at War With Itself," 6 June 2019 The health-conscious, soul-food inspired restaurant first muddles pineapple fruit and then shakes it up with rum, pineapple juice, and coconut milk. Grace Dickinson, https://www.inquirer.com, "The six summery drinks you need to try in Philadelphia this season," 6 June 2019 The goodwill giving inspired Paradise students, who in March raised about $1,500 for victims of tornados in Alabama. Fox News, "From fire and ash to caps, gowns: Graduation in burned town," 6 June 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

10 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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

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

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

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

a tendency to relapse

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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!