in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce inspiration (audio) , -(ˌ)spi- \

Definition of inspiration

1 : an inspiring agent or influence
2a : the quality or state of being inspired
b : something that is inspired a scheme that was pure inspiration
3 : the act of drawing in specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs
4a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

Other Words from inspiration

inspirational \ ˌin(t)-​spə-​ˈrā-​shnəl How to pronounce inspiration (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , -​(ˌ)spi-​ \ adjective
inspirationally adverb

The Inspirational History of Inspiration

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 Web Finding inspiration can sometimes be difficult for even the most creative musician. Okla Jones, Essence, 19 July 2022 What's the inspiration behind the menu at International Smoke? Chelsea Davis, Forbes, 18 July 2022 The inspiration was Tuscan big garlic, often called aglione di Valdichiana, a variety in which each bulb can be as large as a regular head and which is said to go back to Etruscan times. Los Angeles Times, 17 July 2022 And so is the inspiration for the upcoming drop from his brand, Pleasing. ELLE, 15 July 2022 The main inspiration was the color and light of Goya’s black paintings. Anna Marie De La Fuente, Variety, 11 July 2022 Super Fly paved the way for hip-hop. Mayfield’s unflinching lyrics about ghetto life were a direct inspiration to early rappers. Travis Atria, Rolling Stone, 11 July 2022 The program makes some supplies available, and additional creative inspiration is on offer in the museum-rich city, and in nearby Padua, where Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel frescoes, beloved by both John Ruskin and Marcel Proust, await. New York Times, 6 July 2022 Justin Williams overcame a rare genetic disorder to not only become a basketball player at Foundation Academy but to become an inspiration to the entire school. Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel, 3 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inspiration.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of inspiration

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

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

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Last Updated

31 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

“Inspiration.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for inspiration


in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin-spə-ˈrā-shən How to pronounce inspiration (audio) \

Kids Definition of inspiration

1 : the act or power of arousing the mind or the emotions the inspiration of music
2 : a clever idea While deciding on a costume, I had an inspiration.
3 : something that moves someone to act, create, or feel an emotion Mountains were the painter's inspiration.


in·​spi·​ra·​tion | \ ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən, -(ˌ)spir-ˈā- How to pronounce inspiration (audio) \

Medical Definition of inspiration

: the drawing of air into the lungs


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