Definition of spirit in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈspɪrɪt/


1The non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character; the soul: we seek a harmony between body and spirit
More example sentences
  • I believe in this way that the soul/spirit is reflected by the body, that the soul gives life to the body and without a spirit or soul the body and brain are dead.
  • No doubt you've guessed that I think I believe in reincarnation - the doctrine of the rebirth of the spirit / soul in different bodies.
  • And most amazing, we get to receive the Eucharist into our spirits, souls and bodies.
soul, psyche, inner self, inner being, essential being;
Philosophy  pneuma;
Psychology  anima, ego, id;
in ancient Egypt ka;
Hinduism  atman
1.1The non-physical part of a person regarded as their true self and as capable of surviving physical death or separation: a year after he left, his spirit is still present
More example sentences
  • YET I remained basically sceptical when it came to the idea that the spirit survives death.
  • If something survives, if a spirit continues, it sure isn't me.
  • According to spiritualists, the spirit dwells in the physical body, but can leave it temporarily or permanently.
life force, animating principle, vital spark, breath of life;
French élan vital
1.2The non-physical part of a person manifested as an apparition after their death; a ghost: a priest performed a rite of exorcism and the wandering spirit was ousted
More example sentences
  • In this sense, ‘ghosts’ mean the spirits, the apparition of the dead or the devils.
  • Men in the mode of goodness worship the demigods; those in the mode of passion worship the demons; and those in the mode of ignorance worship ghosts and spirits.
  • The movie Ghost also involves spirits who have unfinished business on planet Earth, but in this case, the ghost is here to assist the living.
ghost, phantom, spectre, apparition, wraith, shadow, presence;
Scottish & Irish  bodach;
German Doppelgänger;
West Indian  duppy
informal spook
literary phantasm, shade, revenant, visitant, wight
rare eidolon, manes
1.3A supernatural being: shrines to nature spirits
More example sentences
  • The kami can be likened to nature spirits, and Shinto shrines are usually found in areas of natural beauty.
  • Surya, God of the Sun, is worshiped and the nature spirits are thanked.
  • The Japanese culture and arts have been strongly influenced by a wide-spread belief in ghosts, demons and supernatural spirits.
1.4 (Spirit) short for Holy Spirit.
Example sentences
  • They do not see the cross, and so they do not see the kingdom of God and new life in the Spirit.
  • If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
  • The Spirit frees the Father to let the Son go, and so actually to love him.
2 [in singular] The prevailing or typical quality, mood, or attitude of a person, group, or period of time: I hope the team will build on this spirit of confidence the university is a symbol of the nation’s egalitarian spirit
More example sentences
  • We have despatched a wealth of business together over a short period in a spirit of optimism.
  • It was a change in attitude, a spirit of openness and mutual trust because that clearly was at the crux of the matter.
  • The perception, he admits, might be that government is handing down what is right for people, and an election gives an opportunity to listen to people in a spirit of humility.
ethos, prevailing tendency, motivating force, animating principle, dominating characteristic, essence, quintessence;
atmosphere, mood, feeling, temper, tenor, climate;
attitudes, beliefs, principles, standards, ethics
2.1 [with adjective] A person identified with their most prominent quality or with their role in a group or movement: he was a leading spirit in the conference
More example sentences
  • He has demonstrated quality leadership, and embodies both entrepreneurial spirit and business excellence.
  • This revolutionary spirit is not just about changing the world, but also about what Jim calls ‘tuning people's ears to poetry.’
  • Lucy herself is a powerful character, an independent spirit with a thirst for revenge that threatens to consume her.
2.2 (often spirits) A person’s mood or attitude: the warm weather lifted everyone’s spirits he confessed in a spirit of self-respect
temperament, disposition, character, nature, personality, temper, make-up, humour, cast/turn of mind, complexion;
mind, heart
attitude, frame of mind, way of thinking, way of looking at it, state of mind, point of view, outlook, thoughts, ideas
mood, frame of mind, state of mind, emotional state, humour, temper
2.3 [mass noun] The quality of courage, energy, and determination: his visitors admired his spirit and good temper
More example sentences
  • Swans have shown great spirit, courage, determination and team unity this year but the most important ingredient to the Swans outfit has been an increase in skill.
  • As these and dozens of other contributions came in from people all over the world who had met Peter and admired his spirit and energy, his family had to take up where he left off.
  • The Chelsea coach had commented that his team are far behind Manchester United ‘not in terms of quality but in terms of spirit and determination’.
morale, team spirit;
French esprit de corps
courage, bravery, courageousness, braveness, pluck, pluckiness, valour, strength of character, fortitude, backbone, spine, mettle, stout-heartedness, determination, firmness of purpose, resolution, resoluteness, resolve, fight, gameness
informal guts, grit, spunk
British informal bottle
North American informal sand, moxie
animation, enthusiasm, eagerness, keenness, liveliness, vivacity, vivaciousness, energy, verve, vigour, dynamism, zest, dash, elan, panache, sparkle, exuberance, gusto, brio, pep, go, sap, fervour, zeal, fire, passion
informal pizzazz, oomph, zing, zip, zap, vim, get-up-and-go
3The real meaning or the intention behind something as opposed to its strict verbal interpretation: the rule had been broken in spirit if not in letter
More example sentences
  • The show, which has been running in Athy for almost ten years, unites the town into the real spirit and meaning of Christmas.
  • Despite being old, this definition gives the spirit behind the discipline.
  • The spirit and intent of this rule dovetails with the interpretation of rule 21.02 I have suggested.
real/true meaning, true intention, essence, substance
4 (usually spirits) chiefly British Strong distilled alcoholic drink such as brandy, whisky, gin, or rum.
Example sentences
  • The type of alcohol ranged from beers, lagers and cider to spirits, wine and designer drinks such as Hooch, Bacardi Breezers and Maverick Ice.
  • Most of them are used to mature spirits: various brandies, rums, and whiskies.
  • It is the home of a drinking establishment known as the Old Devil Inn, purveyors of strong ales, stronger spirits and artery-clogging pub food.
strong liquor, liquor, strong drink;
gin, vodka, whisky, brandy, rum
informal hard stuff, shorts, firewater, hooch
4.1 [mass noun, with modifier] A volatile liquid, especially a fuel, prepared by distillation: aviation spirit
More example sentences
  • In recent years, however, and mostly in urban areas, high - octane fuel and methylated spirit have been added to enhance potency.
  • The tanker he was driving was carrying more than 32,000 litres of petroleum spirit and 5,000 litres of diesel fuel.
  • In January 1929, for instance, only two loaded vessels arrived, one with petroleum spirit from Liverpool and the other with cement from London.
4.2 archaic A solution of volatile components extracted from something, typically by distillation or by solution in alcohol: spirits of turpentine
More example sentences
  • Spots on all finishes except lacquer can be treated with a cloth dampened with spirits of camphor, essence of peppermint or oil of wintergreen.
5 archaic A highly refined substance or fluid thought to govern vital phenomena.
Example sentences
  • For it, he drew once again on Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, and proposed that it was one part of a complicated system involving animal and vital spirits.
  • I am exceedingly melancholy of complexion, subject to consumptions and chilliness of my vital spirits, a slavish and sickly life being allotted to me in his city.
  • It passes from the liver to the heart where it revitalises the vital spirit and to brain where it revitalises the animal spirits.

verb (spirits, spiriting, spirited)

[with object and adverbial of direction]
Convey rapidly and secretly: stolen cows were spirited away some distance to prevent detection
More example sentences
  • Frank rescues the couple and their about-to-be born child, spiriting them to a secret home deep in the woods, where their child will join two others that have been saved.
  • Shaggy's enjoyed our fair share of kind offers to have our anatomy enlarged, become an ordained minister online or join a deceased dictator's family in spiriting millions of dollars out of Africa.
  • A spokesman for Caritas said simply, ‘most of them are reducing their staff as much as possible’ and spiriting them out to safety.
abduct, kidnap, make off with, run away with, whisk away, carry off, steal away with, snatch, seize;
abscond with



enter into the spirit

Join wholeheartedly in an event, especially one of celebration and festivity: he entered into the spirit of the occasion by dressing as a pierrot
More example sentences
  • Schoolchildren in North Craven are entering into the spirit of Comic Relief with various fundraising events.
  • It's not just about money, it's about entering into the spirit across the nation.
  • These youths were not entering into the spirit of Halloween but just causing anti-social behaviour and it is particularly frightening for elderly people.

in (or in the) spirit

In thought or intention though not physically: he couldn’t be here in person, but he is with us in spirit
More example sentences
  • In other words, they might be in France physically but in spirit they might be as well be in Saudi Arabia.
  • Wick had hoped he'd at least have Jared backing him up, either physically or in spirit.
  • "The fallen are here in spirit with us today," said the VFW member, who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

lift (or raise) someone's spirits

Cause someone to become more cheerful: your kind words truly lifted my spirits
More example sentences
  • He always said something to lift her spirits.
  • I threw a ball to him before the game in an effort to lift his spirits.
  • A fortnight by the sea will be just the thing to lift my spirits.

the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

proverb Someone has good intentions but fails to live up to them.
With biblical allusion to Matt. 26:41
Example sentences
  • When the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, let these 100% cotton panties do the talking for you, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’
  • Who knows, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak and again subject to pain in the nether regions from the saddle.
  • On the contrary, it is an all too common experience that your evaluative commitments lead you on one path but that you go nonetheless on another: the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

when the spirit moves someone

When someone feels inclined to do something: he can be quite candid when the spirit moves him
A phrase originally in Quaker use, with reference to the Holy Spirit
More example sentences
  • The Rams can still move the ball in explosive fashion when the spirit moves them, but their weak defense and special teams and front-office paranoia are major detriments.
  • But when the spirit moves you, you respond: A group of women suddenly sat down on the road in a line clear across the street and completely blocked all passage of cars.
  • The two nameless pieces of Duh are built out of guitars, samples, amplifier hums, drum machines, effects processors, and, when the spirit moves them, garbled screaming.

the spirit world

(In animistic and occult belief) the non-physical realm in which disembodied spirits have their existence.
Example sentences
  • Many, he said, were attracted to the occult simply by curiosity, and then by a desire to investigate the proof it offered of the existence of the spirit world.
  • Korean shamans communicated with the spirit world.
  • Jesus is now a spirit that one can communicate with in the spirit world.

Phrasal verbs

spirit someone up

archaic Stimulate, animate, or cheer up someone: well, I shall spirit up the Colonel as soon as I can
More example sentences
  • Teatime, even just to indulge in the pervasive smell of Blue Mountain or Santos coffee will spirit you up.
  • Therefore, you can have the initiative: show him you appreciate him, make him feel safe and try to spirit him up.
  • Our teachers might sometimes ask Frank to entertain all of the class to spirit us up.


Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French, from Latin spiritus 'breath, spirit', from spirare 'breathe'.

  • Our word spirit is based on Latin spiritus ‘breath or spirit’, from spirare ‘to breathe’—the ancient Romans believed that the human soul had been ‘breathed’ into the body—the image is the same as ‘the breath of life’. The sense ‘strong distilled alcoholic drink’ comes from the use in alchemy of spirit to mean ‘a liquid essence extracted from some substance’. People sometimes say the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak when they have good intentions but yield to temptation and fail to live up to them. The source is the New Testament, where Jesus uses the phrase after finding his disciples asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane despite telling them that they should stay awake. Spirare forms the basis of numerous English words including aspire (mid 16th century) from adspirare ‘to breath upon, seek to reach’; conspire (Late Middle English) from conspirare ‘to breath together, agree’; expire (late 16th century) ‘to breath out’; inspire (Late Middle English) ‘breath into’ from the idea that a divine or outside power has inspired you; and perspire (mid 17th century) ‘to breath through’; and transpire (Late Middle English) ‘breath across. In English spirit was shortened to sprite (Middle English) which in turn developed sprightly (late 16th century).

Words that rhyme with spirit

dispirit, skirret

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: spirit

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.