Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Inspiring and Inspirational

‘Inspiring’ and ‘inspirational’ are both adjectives related to the word ‘inspire’. While their meanings are similar, they have different implications. They also come from different words: ‘inspire’ and ‘inspiration’.

Both words come from the Latin word ‘inspiro’, which is a verb and has the same meaning as ‘inspire’. ‘Inspire’ came from the present active form – present tense and active voice – of the word, which was ‘inspirare’. From there it went through the French verb ‘inspirer’, and into English. ‘Inspiration’ came from the perfect past participle – a word that describes something that happened to a noun in the past – of ‘inspiro’, which was ‘inspiratus’. From there, it became a noun, ‘inspiratio’, and the accusative singular form – a single direct object – was simplified into French as ‘inspiration’. English took the word in without changing the spelling, though the pronunciation is different.

‘Inspiring’ is the adjective form of the word ‘inspire’. ‘Inspire’ is a verb. The overall meaning of it is to take something in, or to infuse it into the body or spirit. It originally meant to breathe, specifically to take in air by inhaling it. The other meaning is to take in something that causes a mental change, or to cause that change in someone.

“I was inspired to volunteer because of how passionately they spoke about the topic.” 

“He wants to inspire her to become a better person.” 

Creativity is one of the more common changes that can be inspired in a person, but it can mean any sort of change.

The adjective, ‘inspiring’, means something that has produced that change in someone.

“After they heard his inspiring speech, they decided to donate to save the wildlife.” 

“She felt the scene was inspiring enough that she made it into a painting.”

‘Inspirational’, on the other hand, is the adjective of ‘inspiration’, which is the noun form of ‘inspire’. The word ‘inspiration’ has two meanings. First, like ‘inspire’, it means the act of taking in air. Secondly, it is an influence that can inspire or has inspired a person.

“The inspiration for this painting was one sunrise over a lake with swans swimming in it.” 

“While the charity became something more over the years, it never lost sight of its original inspiration.”

‘Inspirational’, specifically, means something that is designed to inspire someone else.

“He tried to be inspirational, but the other man refused to listen.” 

“While people tried to listen to the inspirational speaker, they were bored by his constant repetition.”

The difference between the two is that ‘inspiring’ talks more about the effect it has on the person inspired by it, while ‘inspirational’ is more about the intent behind it. An inspiring speech is one that people are inspired by, whether or not it was intended to be. On the other hand, an inspirational speech is one that is intended to be inspiring, regardless of whether or not it inspired anyone. It is possible for something that was intended to be inspiring to actually be inspiring. In that case, the word used would depend on whether you are talking more about the intent or the effect.

Interestingly enough, the meanings of the words have flipped from their origins. The word ‘inspiration’ came from the perfect past participle, but the word ‘inspiring’ is closer to a word that means something done to another person. ‘Inspiring’ came from the present active tense, but ‘inspirational’ is the one that means doing something to another.

To summarize, ‘inspiring’ comes from the verb ‘inspire’, and it means that someone was inspired by that object. ‘Inspirational’ comes from the noun ‘inspiration’, and it means that the thing in question was intended to inspire someone.


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