Afflatus is a Latin term derived from Cicero (in "On Divination") that has been translated as "inspiration." Cicero's usage was a literalizing of "inspiration," which had already become figurative. Literally, "inspiration," like "afflatus," means "to be blown into" by a divine wind. As "inspiration" came to mean simply the gathering of a new idea, Cicero reiterated the idea of a rush of unexpected breath, a powerful force that would render the poet helpless and unaware of its origin.

In English, "afflatus" is used for this literal form of inspiration. It generally refers not to the usual sudden originality, but to the staggering and stunning blow of a new idea, an idea that the recipient may be unable to explain. In Romantic literature and criticism, in particular, the usage of "afflatus" was revived for the mystical form of poetic inspiration tied to "genius", such as the story Coleridge offered for the composition of "Kubla Khan." The frequent usage of the Aeolian harp as a symbol for the poet was a play on the renewed emphasis on afflatus.


*Brogan, T.V.F. "Inspiration" in Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds., "The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics." Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. 609.

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  • Afflatus — Af*fla tus, n. [L., fr. afflare. See {Afflation}.] 1. A breath or blast of wind. [1913 Webster] 2. A divine impartation of knowledge; supernatural impulse; inspiration. [1913 Webster] A poet writing against his genius will be like a prophet… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • afflatus — (n.) miraculous communication of supernatural knowledge, 1660s, from L. afflatus a breathing upon, blast, from pp. of afflare to blow upon, from ad to (see AD (Cf. ad )) + flare to blow (see BLOW (Cf. blow) (v.1 …   Etymology dictionary

  • afflatus — *inspiration, fury, frenzy …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • afflatus — [ə flāt′əs, aflāt′əs] n. [L < pp. of afflare, to blow on < ad , to + flare, to blow < IE base * bhel : see BLADDER] inspiration or powerful impulse, as of an artist or poet …   English World dictionary

  • Afflatus — Unter Inspiration (von lat.: inspiratio = Beseelung, Einhauchen von „spiritus“ = Leben, Seele, Geist) versteht man allgemeinsprachlich jene mentale Kraft, die neue Ideen hervorbringt. Der Begriff spielt sowohl im Kontext künstlerischen und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • afflatus — /euh flay teuhs/, n. 1. inspiration; an impelling mental force acting from within. 2. divine communication of knowledge. [1655 65; < L afflatus a breathing on, equiv. to af AF + fla (s. of flare to BLOW2) + tus suffix of v. action] * * * …   Universalium

  • afflatus — noun A sudden rush of creative impulse or inspiration, often attributed to divine influence. No man was ever great without a touch of divine afflatus (Nemo igitur vir magnus sine aliquo adflatu divino umquam fuit. De Natura Deorum II.167) …   Wiktionary

  • afflatus — Synonyms and related words: Apollo, Apollo Musagetes, Bragi, Calliope, Castilian Spring, Erato, Euterpe, Geist, Helicon, Hippocrene, Muse, Parnassus, Pierian Spring, Pierides, Polyhymnia, animating spirit, animation, animus, apocalypse, creative… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • Afflatus — Af|fla|tus der; , <aus gleichbed. lat. afflatus> (veraltet) das Anhauchen [des göttlichen Geistes], göttliche Eingebung …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • afflatus —    (ah FLAH tus) [Latin: a breathing on] An inspiration; an irresistible understanding that comes into the mind as a fresh breeze.    He goes at the canvas with all the afflatus of a silkworm eating its phlegmatic way across a mulberry leaf. Time …   Dictionary of foreign words and phrases

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