'Inspire' and 'enlighten' are translated into the same or synonym in my mother language. If I have to describe, their synonym in our language seem like they all mean to 'make someone aware to something to some extent.'
So what's the difference between them? Details with real life examples are appreciated, thanks!

These two words are translated into the same or synonym in my language, so it might cause confusion among some of us, me and my classmate also puzzled about that. Dictionary sure helps, but not enough, that's why I asked. In our language they all mean '启发, 启迪',which is similar to each others. If you know Chinese, type "enlighten inspire 区别" in Baidu, you might find that some of us asked the same question, because in my language they are not completely different words and dictionary sometimes cannot solve our puzzles completely. So please don't be surprise that these two words are put together in comparison and help us out, thanks.

  • Hi Max, the examples i provided was to prove that there are at least synonym between them in our language, i just don't know how to describe it with natural English. My puzzle was mostly eased after reading Jay and Joe's answers. If I have to describe, their synonym in our language seem like they all mean to 'make someone aware to something to some extent.' thanks.
    – user239460
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 8:17
  • 2
    I agree that questions and answers should all be understandable without knowing the OP's first language(s), but I wouldn't go so far as to say that the details about the OP's native language aren't helpful or shouldn't even be mentioned. On the contrary, those kinds of details can help us understand why the OP has a problem, and can help with writing answers that clearly address that problem.
    – user230
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 8:42
  • thanks for your understanding of the diversity between the perception of two language, some words that's understandable in English might be confused in our language. for example, 'wrong, false and mistake' are all translated into the meaning of '错的' in Chinese, as well as 'fortunate and lucky' which might be different to native speaker, but in Chinese they all mean'幸运', i could go on the list but it takes time…What i trying to say is, we can't deny other people's right and genuine to persue the knowledge simply because we are in different understanding and culture of the things, thank you.
    – user239460
    Commented Jun 11, 2017 at 10:30

2 Answers 2


Ditto Joe. Let me add:

To "enlighten" is to give information or wisdom. To "inspire" is to motivate.

"Enlighten" is rarely used today. But an example of a correct usage is, "I didn't know about the new rules until my boss enlightened me."

Perhaps somewhat more common is the adjective "enlightened", meaning "wise" or "compassionate". Like, "Tsar Alexander considered himself an enlightened monarch."

An example sentence with "inspire" is, "I was inspired to buy a new car by the desire to impress my girlfriend."

They're not really the same thing at all. I could get new information and do absolutely nothing about it, I might just say, "yeah, whatever". I could be inspired without getting any new information. Perhaps someone just encouraged me.

Where they might somewhat overlap is that "inspire" can be used to mean that one idea led to another. Like, "Mr Smith's latest novel was inspired by a story he read in the news." He got some idea or information, and that idea led to another idea.

But I can't think of any sentence where you could substitute "inspire" for "enlighten" or vice versa without significantly changing the meaning.

  • thank you! now i am more clear of them than before after reading your answer. by the way, what's the word used to express similar meaning for enlighten since you mentiond that it's rarely used today?
    – user239460
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:27
  • Today we'd usually say "learned". You might also say "informed", or "read" or "heard". Less formally, "picked up". Usage on all of these varies slightly.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:17

Enlighten - Really means to teach or educate on something. Ex - "I could not build my new table until I was enlightened by the directions" (bad example but you get my point)

Inspire - This really means to motivate or create a drive in someone. Ex - "Many more voters turned out for Obama than for Clinton because he was better at inspiring them to go out and vote"


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