Difference Between Inspiring and Inspirational (With Table)

English can sometimes be a very confusing language. Words are often too much alike and differ only in a minor aspect making the speaker mix up and err. These words are known as homophones and it can be hard to distinguish them and use them correctly unless their meaning is distinctly clear to the user.

One such example of homophones are the words inspiring and inspirational. They both come from the root word “inspire” and are often confused and misused by even the most exceptional English speakers.

Inspiring vs Inspirational

The difference between Inspiring and Inspirational can be pointed out in their usage. While inspiring can be a verb as well as an adjective, “inspirational” can only be used as an adjective.

Inspiring is used in a situation where someone or something has provided inspiration. Inspirational is when something or someone has the potential to inspire, but whether or not that inspiration has been or will be bestowed is not yet clear. 

Comparison Table Between Inspiring and Inspirational

Parameters of ComparisonInspiringInspirational
DefinitionInspiring can be defined as the ability or way something inspires.Inspirational can be defined as the capability of something to inspire.
MotiveThe motive when using the word inspiring is to state that something has the ability to inspire and has very well executed it.The motive for using inspirational is to state that something has the potential to inspire but whether it will do so or not remains yet to be seen.
EffectInspiring is more inclined towards the fact that something has provided inspiration. When something is inspiring, it means that inspiration has been imparted. There is a completion of the action. There is no doubt in that.Inspirational refers more to the fact that something can provide inspiration but it is not sure whether that inspiration has been imparted or not. There is no definite completion of this action. There is an air of mystery and wonderment here.
Part of speechInspiring can be used as a verb as well as an adjective.Inspirational can only be used as an adjective.
OriginInspiring comes from the word inspire.Inspirational comes from the word inspiration.

What is Inspiring?

Inspiring is a word that is believed to come from the word “inspire”. It is used as an adjective but can often also be used as a verb. The word inspire comes from the Latin verb “inspirio” which means the same as “inspire” that is to motivate someone or to fill them with the urge to do something.

Inspiring is used as an adjective most of the time but it can also be used as a verb, depending on the situation. Inspiring means that something has inspired or provided an inspiration to the speaker through action or state of being of a situation.

The main thing to focus on here is on the completion and finality of the action. When using the word inspiring, the stress is on the tremendous amount of inspiration gained. Also, depending on the context, inspiring is always positive and empowering.

What is Inspirational?

Inspirational is believed to come from the word inspiration. Originally, it comes from the Latin verb “inspirio” as well and has an overall similar meaning. But there are certain aspects in which it is slightly different.

The word inspirational, which is often confused with inspiring, is supposed to be used in a rather different context. In its right context, inspirational is used to denote the potential to inspire of a person, thing, or situation. When it is said that something is inspirational, it does not mean that it has inspired, but that it can and has the ability to.

In this way, inspirational can also be used in a lot of negative contexts, best executed in compounds. Inspirational when used implies a lot of unfinished business and motive and the effect is to leave the audience or reader wondering.

Main Differences Between Inspiring and Inspirational

  1. Inspiring comes from the word inspire and inspirational comes from the word inspirational. While both of them have the same root word inspirio which has the same meaning, their meanings branch out. Inspiring denotes completion of the action and inspirational denotes the potential to achieve that completion. 
  2. Inspiring means that something has inspired while inspirational means that something can inspire. Inspiring is used to coney that something instils inspiration or motivation or the urge to do something. Inspirational is used to convey that something can inspire but it remains unclear whether it has done so.
  3. Inspiring focuses on the effect, an action or situation has produced while inspirational focuses on the effect, action or situation has the capability to produce.
  4. Inspiring can also be used as a verb as well as an adjective, depending on the context, which again stresses on its completion and finality. But inspirational only be used as an adjective.
  5. Inspiring can only be used in a positive context, but inspirational can also be used in a negative context or as an exaggeration or hyperbole. Being an adjective, the word inspirational opens up the possibility of a wide range of use, which is not always positive. This is usually done in case of compound adjectives to stress the negativity or exaggeration of the inspirational quality the situation strives to attend.


Both the words, inspiring and inspirational are derived from the same Latin verb and thus are very closely related and have similar meanings. It can be very confusing when trying to figure out the right word to use in a context.  But on closer examination, one may find that there is just a simple distinction between the two words. When it is borne in mind, it becomes very easy for the user to know how to use the right word in a context and thus express themselves well and without error.


  1. https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JPCC-09-2015-0005/full/html
  2. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED546804