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

Teen Vogue spoke with Danielle about working on Little and what inspired her wardrobe decisions. Scarlett Newman, Teen Vogue, "Little’s Costume Designer Danielle Hollowell On Dressing Marsai Martin," 12 Apr. 2019 The tweet spread far and wide, inspiring other Maxxinistas to ascend upon their local department store to take advantage of the deal. Elizabeth Gulino, House Beautiful, "TJ Maxx is Selling Gigantic Water Bottles That Can Hold 2.5 Bottles of Wine," 8 Apr. 2019 Last week, a Game of Thrones fan theory popped up online that was inspired by the show's season eight teaser. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "A Major Game of Thrones Theory About Jon Snow Just Got Debunked," 24 Jan. 2019 Many luxury designers have returned to the liberal use of logos, no doubt inspired by the raging success of streetwear brands like Supreme. Eliza Brooke, Vox, "How the Great Recession influenced a decade of design," 27 Dec. 2018 Now, inspired by the possibilities of augmented reality, Funomena has rebuilt a smaller version of Luna specifically for the Magic Leap One headset. Nick Statt, The Verge, "VR storybook game Luna is even more mesmerizing on Magic Leap’s headset," 18 Dec. 2018 Blake even suggested that the lyrics were inspired by his real-life romance. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "Blake Shelton's Girlfriend Gwen Stefani Responds to Engagement Rumors," 18 Dec. 2018 After all, the acoustic-inspired Joanne from 2016 came out of left field. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Lady Gaga Just Hit Back at Pregnancy Rumors With an Even Bigger Announcement," 13 Mar. 2019 In addition to inspiring the style of thousands (okay, more like millions) of living, breathing fans, Meghan's looks are now being copied by inanimate objects. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Bloomingdale's Dresses Mannequin Like Meghan Markle on International Women's Day," 10 Mar. 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

15 Apr 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

to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Latin Quiz

  • roman forum
  • Which of the following months comes from a Latin word for “ten”?
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!