Aspire: From the Latin for ‘To Breathe’

The words aspire and inspire both have very similar meanings, of course one is to give someone the urge to do something and the other is to be urged to do something but how do words relate? And what’s it got to do with spires?

Aspire is come from the Latin word ‘aspirare’, which meant either to inspire or aspire. Aspire is made up of two words; ‘ad’ which meant ‘to’ and comes from proto-Indo-European, where its original meaning was ‘near’, and ‘spirare’ which meant ‘breathe’, the idea being that a person was ‘panting with desire’.

Inspire, comes from the Latin word ‘inspirare’ which meant ‘to breath upon’, kind of like ‘to breath life into’, it got its current meaning in the 14th century after travelling to the English language via the French.

Spire actually comes from the same root as spir and means ‘sharp’, so it turns out there is no relation,

Whilst looking into this I found that ‘spirare’ is also the root work of ‘spirit’ as in ‘a spirited person’ and as in the abstract life within (and sometimes without) the body – makes sense when you think of it as breath doesn’t it? It took on the meaning of ‘life within the body’ in the mid 13th centuary.

If you’re wondering about ‘conspire’, the ‘con’ part is a common form of ‘com’ which was Latin for together, so conspire is ‘to breathe together’.


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