This last Sunday, our community held a Singspiration, where Christians from around the community gathered to sing hymns and praise songs together, and to hear several duets and instrumental performances as well. (We do this four or five times a year. Love it!)

Of course, they coined the term Singspiration from the word inspiration, which awoke the Word Nerd inside of me.


Our word inspire came to us from Middle English, which took it from the French, which got the word originally from the Latin.

The Latin prefix in- means “in or on” (I know that’s shocking information you couldn’t have figured out on your own. Hehe). The Latin root spirare means “to breathe.” So inspire means “to breathe in.”

The Webster’s New World College Dictionary then directs me to the word Spirit. Well, of course. Why hadn’t I seen it before? The Latin spiritus means “breath, courage, vigor, the soul, life.” That’s a perfect definition of what I think of when use the word inspire.

This is really interesting, because in the New Testament, the word generally translated as “Holy Spirit” is the Greek word pneuma, meaning “to breathe.” Both the Greeks and the Romans put spirit and breath into the same word. God is the breath of life, indeed! Check out Genesis 2:7 and Revelation 11:11. (I love my Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, by the way. Thanks again, Rich!)

Back to spirare:

How about conspire? Com-/Con- means “with,” so when you conspire with someone you are breathing with them. Just think about a group of conspirators meeting around a table, their sour breaths intermingling as they form their plot.

Perspire? Per- means “through,” so to perspire is to “breathe through.” Breathing through the skin, I guess?

Now, be careful. The word spire ought to be related, but it’s not. It originated from the Indo-European and came to us through the Greek. The Indo-European sper, means “to turn, wrap” and has to do with spirals and coils. Think of the term “spiraling out of control” or of a church spire spiraling toward heaven. Totally unrelated origin, similar word to spirare.

Fascinating how that happens!

WORD NERD CHALLENGE: Who can come up with the most spire words, not including the three I mentioned? Comment and let me know what you come up with.