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

Definition of inspire

transitive verb

1a : 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
2a : bring about, occasion the book was inspired by his travels in the Far East
b : incite
3a : to draw forth or bring out thoughts inspired by a visit to the cathedral
b : to communicate to an agent supernaturally
5 : to spread (rumor) by indirect means or through the agency of another
6a 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

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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 Carve out time this month to connect with those that inspire you to do and be better. Meghan Rose, Glamour, "Gemini Tarot Horoscopes: May 2021," 1 May 2021 Women such as civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and South Asian immigration advocate Kala Bagai were mentioned as historical figures that still inspire today's young women. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Hosted a Roundtable Discussion with the Next Generation of Young Women Activists," 30 Apr. 2021 Medina hopes her efforts inspire others to care about the environment in their own neighborhoods and beyond. Shanti Lerner, The Arizona Republic, "'These are places for us as well': Empowering more Arizonans to claim their spot outdoors," 14 Apr. 2021 Clubhouse isn’t just an opportunity for business leaders to inspire others or espouse their views. Josh Richards, Rolling Stone, "How Influencers Can Use Clubhouse to Reach Their Audience," 9 Apr. 2021 Either way, her creamy romper will doubtless inspire others to follow suit this spring. Alice Cary, Vogue, "Hailey Bieber Swaps Her Knitted Bralette For The Soft Romper," 30 Mar. 2021 Hwang hopes her actions inspire others to speak up, too. NBC News, "Uber bans rider after racist attack on Asian driver at LAX," 12 Mar. 2021 Ashley is dynamic and authentic, unapologetically using her influence and modeling confidence to inspire others across every aspect of her life—as a mother, wife, activist, supermodel, and entrepreneur. Yola Robert, Forbes, "Ashley Graham Collaborates With Quay To Donate $100,000 To Girls Inc.," 10 Mar. 2021 But Gorman is just one of many young poets eager to share their work and inspire others. Washington Post, "National youth poet laureate finalists found confidence and friendship through words," 7 Mar. 2021

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 1d

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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Time Traveler for inspire

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for inspire

Last Updated

11 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inspire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 May. 2021.

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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 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


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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