The Quality of Awe and the Value of Inspiration


The quality of awe awe and the value of inspiration

refers to

the nature of wonder and the importance of being inspired

Awe is Wonder

“Awe” is an old word for “wonder”. Awe or wonder is the emotion we feel when we we see something amazing that makes us feel small:

The sight of Niagara Falls was awe-inspiring!

When I saw the Grand Canyon, I was filled with awe.

Word Family

Look at the word family:

Awestruck – adjective

When the pilgrim came close to the great stone, he was awestruck. He felt that God was very close.

The pilgrim was struck by a feeling of awe. Awe often refers to religious feelings of wonder, reverence, and feeling small in the presence of greatness.

Awesome – adjective

“Awesome” is a old word but it has become popular among young people over the last ten years.

That was awesone!

When people tell a story or give a piece of good news, the listener often says:


It means:






It has become a very common word or “buzz word” and this has the effect of reducing the power of the word. It has less effect because it is common.

Awful – adjective

The word “awful” is related to “awe” but it has a negative meaning. It means “very bad”.

The book was ok but the movie was awful.

The service was great but the food was awful.

Awe-inspiring – adjective

When Michael Portillo visited the Grand Canyon, he stood on the edge and said:

“It is literally awe-inspiring!

The Value of Inspiration

When Portillo said:

It is awe-inspiring!

he could have said

“It inspires awe!”


It has inspired me with a feeling of awe.

The Meaning of the word “inspire”

The basic meaning of the word “inspire” is “to breathe”. When we talk about breath in English, we use the words:

inhale – exhale

which mean

breathe in – breathe out

but the Romans, who spoke Latin used the word “spirare” which means “to breathe” in Latin.

In Roman times the idea of breath had more weight. It was not a mere physical activity. It contained the idea of spirit so “spirare” means “to breathe air” but it also means “to take in spirit” in a kind of way.

Breath is spirit.


In English the word inspiration has come to mean “to take in spirit” or “be inspired by spirit”.

When Michael Portillo said:

It is awe-inspiring

he meant

It makes you take in the spirit of awe


It makes you breathe in the feeling of wonder.

A Source of Inspiration

A source of inspiration is something which gives you spirit or inspiration. A beautiful place like the Grand Canyon or the Himalayas or the ocean or a huge mountain or a beautiful forest can inspire inspiration. It makes you feel the wonder of the spirit of nature.


Can you think of a place which inspires you?

Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Inspiration – word family

My English teacher, Jack Ivett was a great inspiration to me and I went on to become an English teacher as well.

Verb – inspire

My teacher inspired me and even though he died a long time ago, I still remember things that he said to me a long time ago.

Adjective – inspiring

If you are lucky enough to meet a really inspiring person when you are young, it can change the way you look at life and make you a stronger, better, happier human being. However if you never meet an inspiring person, you have to find the strength of spirit inside your own heart. Always do your best!

Noun – inspiration

My parents were a source of great inspiration to me because they always listened to me and always patiently explained things to me when I asked questions.

Adjective – inspirational

His influence on me was inspirational and I will always remember the things he said and did.

Adjective – awe-inspiring

The sight of the waterfall was absolutely awe-inspiring.

Verb – expire

When does your visa expire?

When does your passport expire?

Noun – expiry

Always check the expiry date of your passport because some countries will not allow you to enter if you do not have a passport with at least six months validity.

What is the expiry date of your passport?

Adjective – respiratory

The respiratory system consists of the lungs and other parts of the body which are used to take in air.

Do you have strong lungs?

Verb – conspire

The banks and large corporations are conspiring to take over the world and create one world government.

Do you think there should be one world government?

Noun – conspiracy

There are lots of conspiracy theories on the internet but as we see that governments work more and more in the interests of large corporations and banks and less and less for the people, who they are supposed to serve, we draw the inevitable conclusion that these conspiracy theories are not theories at all. They are real.

Tell us about a conspiracy which you know about in the comments section below.

Noun – aspiration

Aspirations are like ambitions or desires to do something or be something.

What are your aspirations?

Verb – aspire

I aspired to become a novelist but I could never find a place to publish my work so I decided to make writing my hobby.

What do you aspire to do?

Verb – perspire

When we perspire we smell bad so we use deodorant to cover the smell.

Do you use deodorant or baby powder?

Noun – perspiration

Perspiration is the body’s way of releasing heat and moisture.


Your breathing is connected to your state of mind.

Links to Vocabulary Lessons

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