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

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

Both series call the ascendant streamer home, are inspired by prolific, beloved authors, and were produced to be Emmys bait with their lush, cinematic aesthetics., "Handmaid’s Tale," 13 July 2018 In the film, which opens today and like the others in the franchise was inspired by the Tex Avery style of animation, the vampiric Drac (Adam Sandler) reluctantly embarks on a cruise with his family. Carolyn Giardina, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hotel Transylvania 3' Director On Why The Animated Monster Mash Is More Than Just A "Silly Comedy"," 13 July 2018 The second season of the true-crime parody, whose first season was inspired by The Staircase, stars Kristin Chenoweth as murder suspect Lavinia Peck-Foster. Ellen Gray,, "TV picks: SharkFest, Sacha Baron Cohen, 'Suits' and more," 13 July 2018 Adams said during the meeting that much of the proposal presented Wednesday night was inspired by comments made by residents from a previous community input meeting in November. Libby Solomon,, "Widespread support, a couple passionate detractors at Bosley Estates public meeting," 12 July 2018 Now, it is being applied to a delightful new venture: a limited-edition capsule of Air Jordans as edited by Vogue and inspired by the woman in charge. Monica Kim, Vogue, "This Is the Ultimate Fashion Sneaker: Air Jordans, Inspired by Anna Wintour," 12 July 2018 The study suggests drivers could have been inspired by last year’s rank, as well as a decrease in some of the categories tracked. Daniel Wilson, sacbee, "Sacramento drivers are among worst in U.S., study says. Why ‘things are looking up’," 12 July 2018 The collection of handmade pieces, all designed to be portable, was inspired by Victorian-era British explorers. Candice Baker Yacono,, "Louis Vuitton South Coast Plaza reopens with store-exclusive merchandise," 12 July 2018 On September 7 — just in time for New York Fashion Week — a second shoe will be released: the Air Jordan 3 SE, which is inspired by Wintour’s love of Chanel suits and sunglasses, in black or red tweed. Emilia Petrarca, The Cut, "We Regret to Inform You That Anna Wintour Is Now a Hypebeast," 12 July 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.

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

14 Oct 2018

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



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)


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


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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


one that holds something together

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words from Greek and Roman Mythology Quiz

  • the-triumph-of-venus-by-alessandro-magnasco
  • Boreal comes from the name of the ancient Greek god of which wind?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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