Words related to spirit
Old English gast "breath; good or bad spirit, angel, demon; person, man, human being," in Biblical use "soul, spirit, life," from Proto-West Germanic *gaistaz (source also of Old Saxon gest, Old Frisian jest, Middle Dutch gheest, Dutch geest, German Geist "spirit, ghost"). This is conjectured to be from a PIE root *gheis-, used in forming words involving the notions of excitement, amazement, or fear (source also of Sanskrit hedah "wrath;" Avestan zaesha- "horrible, frightful;" Gothic usgaisjan, Old English gæstan "to frighten").
Ghost is the English representative of the usual West Germanic word for "supernatural being." In Christian writing in Old English it is used to render Latin spiritus (see spirit (n.)), a sense preserved in Holy Ghost. Sense of "disembodied spirit of a dead person," especially imagined as wandering among the living or haunting them, is attested from late 14c. and returns the word toward its likely prehistoric sense.
Most Indo-European words for "soul, spirit" also double with reference to supernatural spirits. Many have a base sense of "appearance" (such as Greek phantasma; French spectre; Polish widmo, from Old Church Slavonic videti "to see;" Old English scin, Old High German giskin, originally "appearance, apparition," related to Old English scinan, Old High German skinan "to shine"). Other concepts are in French revenant, literally "returning" (from the other world), Old Norse aptr-ganga, literally "back-comer." Breton bugelnoz is literally "night-child." Latin manes probably is a euphemism.
The gh- spelling appeared early 15c. in Caxton, influenced by Flemish and Middle Dutch gheest, but was rare in English before mid-16c. Sense of "slight suggestion, mere shadow or semblance" (in ghost image, ghost of a chance, etc.) is first recorded 1610s; sense of "one who secretly does work for another" is from 1884. Ghost town is from 1908. Ghost story is by 1811. Ghost-word "apparent word or false form in a manuscript due to a blunder" is from 1886 (Skeat). Ghost in the machine was British philosopher Gilbert Ryle's term (1949) for "the mind viewed as separate from the body." The American Indian ghost dance is from 1890. To give up the ghost "die" was in Old English.
"strive for, seek eagerly to attain, long to reach," c. 1400, aspiren, from Old French aspirer "aspire to; inspire; breathe, breathe on" (12c.), from Latin aspirare "to breathe upon, blow upon, to breathe," also, in transferred senses, "to be favorable to, assist; to climb up to, to endeavor to obtain, to reach to, to seek to reach; infuse," from ad "to" (see ad-) + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)).
The notion is of "panting with desire," or perhaps of rising smoke. The literal sense of "breathe, exhale" (1530s) is rare in English. Related: Aspired; aspiring.
late 14c., "aspire or plan maliciously, agree together to commit a criminal or reprehensible act," from Old French conspirer (14c.), from Latin conspirare "to agree, unite, plot," literally "to breathe together," from assimilated form of com "with, together" (see con-) + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)), perhaps on the notion of "to agree (by spoken oath) to commit a bad act." Or perhaps the notion is "to blow together" musical instruments, i.e., "to sound in unison."
Neutral or good sense of "to contribute jointly to a certain result" is from 1530s. Related: Conspired; conspiring.
Esprit de corps, recorded from 1780 in English, preserves the usual French sense. French also has the excellent phrase esprit de l'escalier, literally "spirit of the staircase," defined in OED as, "a retort or remark that occurs to a person after the opportunity to make it has passed." It also has esprit fort, a "strong-minded" person, one independent of current prejudices, especially a freethinker in religion.
c. 1400, "to die," from Old French expirer "expire, elapse" (12c.), from Latin expirare/exspirare "breathe out, blow out, exhale; breathe one's last, die," hence, figuratively, "expire, come to an end, cease," from ex "out" (see ex-) + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)). "Die" is the older sense in English; that of "breathe out" is attested from 1580s. Of laws, patents, treaties, etc., mid-15c. In 17c. also transitive. Related: Expired; expiring.
c. 1300, "immediate influence of God or a god," especially that under which the holy books were written, from Old French inspiracion "inhaling, breathing in; inspiration" (13c.), from Late Latin inspirationem (nominative inspiratio), noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin inspirare "blow into, breathe upon," figuratively "inspire, excite, inflame," from in- "in" (from PIE root *en "in") + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)). ,
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. [Genesis ii.7]
The sense evolution seems to be from "breathe into" to "infuse animation or influence," thus "affect, rouse, guide or control," especially by divine influence. Inspire (v.) in Middle English also was used to mean "breath or put life or spirit into the human body; impart reason to a human soul." Literal sense "act of inhaling" attested in English from 1560s. Meaning "one who inspires others" is attested by 1867.
mid-14c., enspiren, "to fill (the mind, heart, etc., with grace, etc.);" also "to prompt or induce (someone to do something)," from Old French enspirer (13c.), from Latin inspirare "blow into, breathe upon," figuratively "inspire, excite, inflame," from in- "in" (from PIE root *en "in") + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)).
The Latin word was used as a loan-translation of Greek pnein in the Bible. General sense of "influence or animate with an idea or purpose" is from late 14c. Also sometimes used in literal sense in Middle English. Related: Inspires; inspiring.
1610s, "a breathing through," a sense now obsolete, from French perspiration (1560s), noun of action from perspirer "perspire," from Latin perspirare "blow or breathe constantly," from per "through" (from PIE root *per- (1) "forward," hence "through") + spirare "to breathe, blow" (see spirit (n.)). Applied by 1620s to "excretion of invisible moistures through the skin," hence its later use as a euphemism for "sweat" (1725).