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

Its creator John Shepherd-Barron was inspired by a candy bar vending machine. Charisse Jones, USA TODAY, "What would we do without them? Labor Day marks 50 years since the ATM made its U.S. debut," 30 Aug. 2019 The collaboration was inspired by UnderTow's menu, which came out in 2018. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Arizona Wilderness will drop 7 limited release beers on Labor Day weekend. Here's the list," 30 Aug. 2019 The design, which features iridescent stripes with circuitry-themed graphics, was inspired by MSU’s T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability. Paul Lukas, SI.com, "Uni Watch College Football Preview 2019," 29 Aug. 2019 Mr Akin was inspired to make the movie after reading in 2013 that a gay-pride event in Tbilisi had been harassed by thugs and zealots. The Economist, "A culture clash in the Caucasus," 29 Aug. 2019 The Georgia Tech project was actually inspired by an incident on Apollo 13, when astronauts had to make carbon dioxide filters after carbon dioxide levels on board began to rise. Lisa Marie Segarra, Fortune, "Watch: Georgia Tech’s Robot MacGyver Can Fashion Tools From Spare Parts," 29 Aug. 2019 We were inspired by classic, untouched-by-time spaces. Mark Kurlyandchik, Detroit Free Press, "Lauded chef Kate Williams to debut vintage-style diner Karl's in Detroit this week," 27 Aug. 2019 You should be inspired by all the solutions that can solve the problem. Bertrand Piccard, Quartz, "How to fight climate change without fighting capitalism," 26 Aug. 2019 The haircut and the glasses were inspired by a picture. Clark Collis, EW.com, "John Travolta breaks down his crazy look in Fred Durst's The Fanatic," 26 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

2 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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