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Inspiring vs. Inspirational: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on December 17, 2023
Inspiring refers to causing motivation; "Her speech was inspiring." Inspirational refers to providing inspiration; "His story was truly inspirational."

Key Differences

Inspiring refers to something that actively stimulates or evokes feelings of motivation and creativity in others. For example, an inspiring teacher actively engages and encourages students to learn. On the other hand, inspirational describes something that serves as a passive source of motivation, often through its inherent qualities or story. An inspirational book, for instance, doesn't actively engage with the reader but provides motivation through its content.
Inspiring often implies a dynamic process or action, like an inspiring leader whose actions and words move people to act. It suggests an ongoing, active influence. Inspirational, in contrast, is more static, describing a state or quality. An inspirational painting, for instance, may evoke feelings of awe and motivation but remains unchanged itself.
The term inspiring is typically applied to actions or behaviors that actively cause inspiration. For example, an inspiring speech directly influences and uplifts the audience. Inspirational is often used to describe objects or phenomena that indirectly cause inspiration, like an inspirational landscape whose beauty and grandeur evoke a sense of possibility and creativity.
Inspiring is often personal and subjective, varying greatly based on individual experiences. What is inspiring to one person may not be to another. Conversely, inspirational is more universally recognized, often associated with qualities that are widely acknowledged to be motivating or uplifting, like an inspirational quote that resonates with a broad audience.
In usage, inspiring is often action-oriented, suggesting an active engagement in inspiring others. Inspirational, meanwhile, is attribute-oriented, referring to the inherent qualities of something that make it a source of inspiration, like an inspirational story that stands the test of time.

Comparison Chart

Action vs. State

Involves an active process
Describes a static quality


Often personal and subjective
Usually universally recognized

Usage Context

Applied to actions or behaviors
Used to describe objects or phenomena

Influence Type

Direct and active influence
Indirect and passive influence



Inspiring and Inspirational Definitions


Provoking thought or emotion.
The documentary was inspiring, leading many to change their views.


Serving as a role model or ideal.
His life story is deeply inspirational.


Motivating others through action.
Her marathon victory was inspiring to many aspiring athletes.


Evoking a sense of awe or admiration.
The natural beauty of the landscape is inspirational.


Encouraging through example or presence.
Her presence in the community has been inspiring.


Stimulating creativity or imagination.
The novel's rich world-building is inspirational.


Eliciting creativity or action.
The artist's unique style is inspiring to many newcomers in the field.


Providing motivation or encouragement.
Her words were inspirational to those facing challenges.


Stimulating a response or change.
His relentless dedication to his work is inspiring.


Inducing a desire for change or improvement.
The film's message is highly inspirational.


Tending to enliven, motivate, or exalt
An inspiring eulogy.


Of or relating to inspiration.


Providing inspiration; encouraging; stimulating.


Providing or intended to convey inspiration.


Present participle of inspire


Resulting from inspiration.




Having the ability to inspire.


Animating; cheering; moving; exhilarating; as, an inspiring or scene.


A book or article intended to inspire people with positive feelings.


Stimulating or exalting to the spirit


Pertaining to inspiration.


Imparting inspiration{2}; as, an inspirational sermon.


Imparting a divine influence on the mind and soul


What is an example of something inspirational?

An autobiography of a successful person can be very inspirational.

Can inanimate objects be inspiring?

Yes, objects like paintings or sculptures can be inspiring through their creation or the emotions they evoke.

Is 'inspirational' always positive?

Generally, yes, it refers to positive motivation or influence.

Does inspirational imply a long-term effect?

Often, yes. Inspirational things tend to have a lasting impact.

Are inspirational people always well-known?

No, anyone can be inspirational, regardless of their fame.

Can movies be inspirational?

Yes, movies with powerful messages or stories can be highly inspirational.

What makes something inspiring?

Something is inspiring if it actively motivates or stimulates others to action or creativity.

Is 'inspiring' subjective?

Yes, what is inspiring to one person may not be to another.

Can a person be both inspiring and inspirational?

Yes, a person can be both, actively motivating others (inspiring) and having qualities that passively motivate (inspirational).

How do I use 'inspiring' in a sentence?

"Her dedication to her work is very inspiring."

Can a landscape be inspiring?

Absolutely, landscapes can be inspiring by their beauty or grandeur.

Can failure be inspiring?

Yes, if it leads to learning and growth, it can be inspiring.

Is it correct to say 'an inspirational moment'?

Yes, this refers to a moment that provides motivation or inspiration.

Can books be both inspiring and inspirational?

Yes, through their content and the actions they motivate in readers.

What kind of actions are typically considered inspiring?

Actions demonstrating courage, determination, or innovation are often considered inspiring.

Is inspiring more about the influencer or the influenced?

It's more about the influencer and their ability to actively motivate others.

Can a speech be both inspiring and inspirational?

Yes, if it actively motivates (inspiring) and has qualities that provide motivation (inspirational).

What's the difference in usage between 'inspiring' and 'inspirational'?

'Inspiring' is more often used for actions, while 'inspirational' describes inherent qualities.

Can hardships be inspiring?

Yes, overcoming hardships can be inspiring to others.

Are inspiring and inspirational interchangeable?

Not always, as they have subtly different meanings and contexts.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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