inspire

verb

in·​spire in-ˈspī(-ə)r How to pronounce inspire (audio)
inspired; inspiring

transitive verb

1
a
: to spur on : impel, motivate
threats don't necessarily inspire people to work
b
: to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence on
was particularly inspired by the Romanticists
c
: affect
seeing the old room again inspired him with nostalgia
d
: to influence, move, or guide by divine or supernatural inspiration
2
a
: bring about, occasion
the book was inspired by his travels in the Far East
b
: incite
3
a
: to draw forth or bring out
thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral
b
: to communicate to an agent supernaturally
4
5
: to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of another
6
a
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
inspirer noun

Did you know?

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.
Recent Examples on the Web The recipient of Variety’s Creative Impact in Animation Award, Park not only put Aardman on the map, but made the cumbersome medium one where filmmakers such as Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro and Wes Anderson were inspired to explore. Peter Debruge, Variety, 10 July 2024 The opposite of a wallflower, her zest for life is inspiring. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 10 July 2024 The Remi Camel Brown rug was inspired by natural Tuareg rugs and has a very minimal pattern that highlights the handwoven texture. Christianna Silva, Better Homes & Gardens, 10 July 2024 Vest sets inspired by Alba are going to be one of my new go-to styles. Nicol Natale, Peoplemag, 10 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for inspire 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inspire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French inspirer, from Latin inspirare, from in- + spirare to breathe

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1d

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

Dictionary Entries Near inspire

Cite this Entry

“Inspire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspire. Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

inspire

verb
in·​spire in-ˈspī(ə)r How to pronounce inspire (audio)
inspired; inspiring
1
: to move or guide by divine influence
prophets inspired by God
2
a
: to stimulate to greater or higher activity : make spirited
inspired by his parents
b
: to cause to have a particular thought or feeling
the old house inspired her with longing for the past
c
: to cause a feeling of : arouse
inspires confidence in her followers
3
: inhale
4
: bring about
studies that inspired several inventions
inspirer noun

Medical Definition

inspire

verb
in·​spire in-ˈspī(ə)r How to pronounce inspire (audio)
inspired; inspiring

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

More from Merriam-Webster on inspire

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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