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The Etymology of Inspiration (under construction)

How did the word evolve?


etymology of enthusiasm

etymology of inspiration

   Indo-European Ancient Greek Early Christian Latin Early Christian Latin   Indo-European Italic Late Latin Old French French Old English English
5,000 B.C.E.?

1000 B.C

dhs-     steig-. bhl-
or peis, an imitation of the sound of blowing or breathing out.
  instinctus inflatus                  
in - in +
- to breathe  - conveys the idea of motion, direction, or inclination into or to a place or a thing.
third century                 ispiratio        
1308                 Dante used the variant inspirazione referring to suggestion, prompting        
14th century                   enspirer      
Present     enthusiasm instinct flatus               inspiration

Lucia Zambrini  "The word comes from Late Latin ispiratio, -onis (Late Latin started approximately in the third century; before that Latin used words such as inflatus or instinctus in their metaphorical meanings to express the concept of inspiration). In its turn this word derives from the past participle of the verb inspirare, «to blow into or upon; to breath into» formed by the verb spirare «to breath» with probably an onomatopeic origin, and the preposition in, that in composition, connected with a verb of motion, conveys the idea of motion, direction, or inclination into or to a place or a thing. In 1308 Dante used the variant inspirazione referring to suggestion, prompting; by 1560 it also meant creative power. "

Encarta World Dictionary  Inspire—[14th century. Via Old French enspirer, from Latin inspirare, from spirare, 'to breathe' (source of English SPIRIT).”


Online Etymological Dictionary  c.1303, from O.Fr. inspiration, from L.L. inspirationem (nom. inspiratio), from L. inspirare "inspire, inflame, blow into," from in-"in" + spirare "breathe."

Inspire is c.1340, from O.Fr. enspirer, from L. inspirare.

Religious sense is as cognate of Gk. pnein in Bible translations.
from (breathing (from pnein, to breathe; see pneu-)



(Many Christian scholars have explored the etymology of the word inspiration. They are especially interested in the word because of the relationship to one of the major tenants of Christianity that says the bible is created by divine inspiration. See below.)  The word comes into Middle English from the French,  

The Meaning and Extent of Inspiration in II Timothy 3 :16,  by Frank L. Griffith
"qeovpneustos is a compound of qeov and pneustos, a verbal adjective 8 from the verb pnevw ("to breathe or blow"). 9 Thus the basic meaning is "God-breathed" or "God-blown." Cremer claims that the "formation of the word cannot be traced to the use of pnevw but only of ejmpnevw (in-breathe) because the simple verb is never used of divine action." 10 However, pnevw is used of God’s activity in the LXX (Isa. 40.24; Ps. 147:18). 11

Although some lexicons give "inspired by God" 12 as the definition of qeovneustos, it does not really reflect the meaning. Inspire is from the Latin "inspirare; in -- in + spirare--to breathe." Thus the English word means "to blow or breathe into or upon . . . to infuse by breathing . . . to draw in by breathing; to inhale;--opposed to expire." 13

The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of a "spiring" or "spiration." What it says of Scripture is, not that it is "breathed into by God’ or is a product of the Divine "inbreathing" into its human authors, but that it is breathed out by God, "God-breathed," the product of the creative breath of God. 14 "

 An Examination of the Doctrine of Inerrancy of  Biblical Scriptures,  Nadir Aqueel Ansari 
The basic Latin word in this area is the verb ‘inspirare’, meaning literally to ‘breathe into, upon, or in’. Apparently not employed in pre-Augustan and Augustan writings except poetry. ‘Inspirare’ is chiefly a post Augustan word, used both in its literal meaning and in a transferred meaning, namely that of arousing a state or attitude in the human mind as in the statement: ‘His words inspired anger.’ In Tertullian, the inspirare words are already found in a transferred Christian application though only in the generic sense of the prompting of God and not in the specific sense of those prompting that led to the writing of Scripture. Early Christian Latin vocabulary used such words as ‘afflatus’, ‘inflatus’, and ‘instinctus’ -- the classical equivalents of our modern word ‘inspiration’. Gradually however ‘inspirare’ came to be generally used for that influence by which God is the source of the sacred books. 

Greek, however, provides one set of words for inspired documents and another for inspired human writers. An inspired book is described as ‘theopneustos’ (God breathed) and an inspired person is defined as ‘theophoretos’ (God borne) and by ‘pneumatophoros’ (Spirit borne).  "



History of Latin From Origion
  •  1000 B.C. Indo-European immigrants
    • Italic peoples migrated from the north.
  • 7th century B.C. Creation of the Latin alphabet based on the Etruscan alphabet
  • Early Period 250 B.C.- 80 B.C.
    •  Ennius,  Plautus, Terence.
  • Golden Age 80 B.C. -14 A.D 
    • prose;  Julius Caesar, Cicero, and Livy
    • poetry: Catullus, Lucretius, Vergil, Horace, and Ovid
  • Silver Age 14 A.D. - 130 A.D.  
    • Middle of the second century,
    • Tacitus, Juvenal, Pliny the Younger and Suetonius, Seneca
  •  Late Latin period  2d century - 6th century (c. 636 )
    • decline of the Empire
  •  Middle Ages
    • 6th century - 14th century - the  Church uses Latin
  • 14th- 17th century.  used to write scientific, religious or philosophical literature
  • 17th century. Latin slowly disappears from regular usage
English Language periods:
  Old English 700-1100
  Transition Old English 1100-1200
  Middle English 1200-1400
  Transition Middle English 1400-1500
  Modern English 1500-

English Literature Periods.



Words from the same Latin root spirare words related to breath  "It came from Latin spirare `breathe' (source of English aspire, conspire, expire, inspire, perspire, respire, transpire, etc.), and that probably came from the prehistoric Indo-European base *speis- or *peis, an imitation of the sound of blowing or breathing out. The Indo-European root is the source also of Old Church Slavonic piskati `whistle,' Serbo-Croation pistati `hiss,' and Old Norse fisa `fart.'From

[13th century] Latin spiritus originally meant 'breath': it was derived from the verb spirare 'breathe' . spirare is the source of English
 [15th century], conspire
[14th century], expire
[15th century, inspire
[14th century], perspire
[17th century], respire
[14th century], transpire
[16th century], etc.),
 which probably came ultimately from the prehistoric Indo-European bases *speis- or *peos-, imitative of the sound of blowing or breathing out (source also of Old Church Slavonic piskati 'whistle,' Serbo-Croat pistati 'hiss,' and Old Norse fisa). But in the Augustan period it gradually began to take over as the word for 'soul' from anima (source of English animal, animate, etc.), which itself originally denoted 'breath,' and in Christian Latin writings it was the standard term used.


theopneustosqeovpneustos = compound of qeov (God) and pneustos ("to breathe or blow"),
Greek enthousiazein, to be inspired by a god,
Greek enthousiasmos, en-, in; see + theos, god; see dhs- in
Late Latin enthsiasmus,

first appeared in English in 1603 with the meaning “possession by a god.
evolved to the generic nonreligious word of today.
English - enthusiasm
Some questions?
How did the Greek
pneu come to or get translated  into the Latin and how does it relate to inspiration?
Inspiration in Greek and how it evoled?  Late Latin enthsiasmus, from Greek enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein, to be inspired by a god, from entheos, possessed : en-, in; see en–2 + theos, god; see dhs- in Appendix I (From


pompous, swollen, puffed up, inflated.
 blowing into, blast, inspiration.

    instinctus :
        1 - instinctus, us, m. : instigation, impulsion, inspiration
        2 - instinctus, a, um : part. passé de instinguo.

        instinguo, instinxi, instinctum, instinguere : - tr. - exciter, pousser, animer.
            - instinctus (divino spiritu) : inspiré.
            - instinctu divino : par une inspiration divine.




 It is believed that most of the languages from Europe to India had a common root in a language called the Indo-European Language. To understand the etymology of a word it's good to have an overview of the Indo-European Tree of languages. See the following chart to see this language tree.