Inspiration has an unusual history in that its figurative sense appears to predate its literal one. It comes from the Latin inspiratus (the past participle of inspirare, “to breathe into, inspire”) and in English has had the meaning “the drawing of air into the lungs” since the middle of the 16th century. This breathing sense is still in common use among doctors, as is expiration (“the act or process of releasing air from the lungs”).
However, before inspiration was used to refer to breath it had a distinctly theological meaning in English, referring to a divine influence upon a person, from a divine entity; this sense dates back to the early 14th century. The sense of inspiration often found today (“someone or something that inspires”) is considerably newer than either of these two senses, dating from the 19th century.
Examples of inspiration in a Sentence
Where does the inspiration for your art come from?
His paintings take their inspiration from nature.
She had a sudden inspiration. They would have the party outdoors!
Deciding to have the party outdoors was sheer inspiration.
Recent Examples on the WebOthers found inspiration elsewhere, including close friends and family.—Irene Kim, Vogue, 15 Sep. 2023 Find ideas and inspiration on where to go, what to eat and how to enjoy life on the weekends.—Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times, 15 Sep. 2023 The second celebration was spearheaded by Vogue’s Anna Wintour and Edward Enninful, as well as theater and television director Stephen Daldry, who worked together to pull inspiration from London’s theater epicenter, the West End.—Charna Flam, Peoplemag, 14 Sep. 2023 For her Los Angeles stop on September 11, the multi-hyphenate looked to the late 90s and early aughts for her hairstyle inspiration.—Gabi Thorne, Allure, 14 Sep. 2023 For inspiration, Kim looked to thrillers like Gone Girl, as well as relationship dramas like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Revolutionary Road.—Emily Zemler, Rolling Stone, 14 Sep. 2023 Gupta’s resilience and her hope to be fully seen are an inspiration in both personal and political terms.—Jessica Ferri, Washington Post, 14 Sep. 2023 The Man were also a source of inspiration and encouragement for the idea, Dommek said.—Alena Naiden, Anchorage Daily News, 13 Sep. 2023 Beyoncé has previously opened up about how Ross is one of her musical inspirations.—Kirsty Hatcher, Peoplemag, 5 Sep. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'inspiration.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.