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

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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

As climate activist Greta Thunberg travels by boat from Europe to New York for the UN Climate Summit, her scrupulousness is inspiring other climate-conscious travelers. Fortune, "Asking the Hard Questions About Universal Child Care: The Broadsheet," 16 Aug. 2019 What inspires that connection between these two men? Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker, "George Saunders on the Induced Bafflement of Fiction," 12 Aug. 2019 The song was based on an old spiritual and inspired by the crowd itself. Raisa Bruner, Time, "Watch the 10 Most Memorable Performances at Woodstock," 9 Aug. 2019 With a video directed by Child and inspired by Total and Missy Elliott, the cool visuals are the perfect vibe. Sydney Scott, Essence, "Ari Lennox, Megan Thee Stallion And More Top This Week's Playlist," 9 Aug. 2019 The findings could even inspire robots that navigate the world like the mantises—save for grabbing prey with spiky arms and decapitating them. Matt Simon, WIRED, "Why These Praying Mantises Are Wearing Itty-Bitty 3D Glasses," 9 Aug. 2019 In a candid chat, the three share their unique journeys in the industry and celebrate the sisterhood of country music. Reba McEntire: Lots of great women inspired me, starting with my mother. Alison Abbey, Woman's Day, "Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert and Carly Pearce Dish on the Sisterhood of Country Music," 9 Aug. 2019 Aimed at children aged 8-12 and inspired by Atlanta’s hip-hop music and culture scene, the series will be executive produced by Imagine Entertainment chairman Brian Grazer (who appeared via video), Sharma, Sperber and Quavo. Melinda Newman, Billboard, "Katy Perry, Niall Horan and Quavo Reveal New Projects at Sixth Annual Capitol Congress," 8 Aug. 2019 At this point, your entire life could be filled with items designed and inspired by Billie. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Billie Eilish Collaborated with Siberia Hills on Hoodies and a Shirt," 8 Aug. 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.

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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

19 Aug 2019

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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 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

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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

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