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A detail from Sandro Botticelli’s Nascita di Venere (The Birth of Venus, c. 1486) depicting Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind, blowing the seaborne Venus to the shore. The woman in his arms is probably his wife Chloris, the goddess of flowers and spring. The painting is in the collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.


Borrowed from Latin afflātus (a breath, an act of breathing out or breathing upon; breeze, gust of air, vapour, wind; inspiration), from afflāre (from afflō (to blow, to breathe), from ad- (prefix meaning ‘to, towards) + flō (to blow, to breathe)) + -tus (suffix producing an action noun from a verb). The related Latin word adflātū was first used in the “inspiration” sense by the Roman orator and philosopher Cicero (106–43 B.C.E.) in De Natura Deorum (The Nature of the Gods, 44 B.C.E.), book II, section 167.[1]



afflatus (plural afflatuses)

  1. A sudden rush of creative impulse or inspiration, often attributed to divine influence.
    divine afflatus
    • 1726, [Joseph Spence], “Evening the Third”, in An Essay on Pope's Odyssey: In which some Particular Beauties and Blemishes of that Work are Consider'd, London: Printed for James and J. Knapton, R. Knaplock, W. and J. Innys, J. Wyatt, D. Midwinter, booksellers in St. Paul's Church-Yard, London; and S. Wilmot, bookseller in Oxford, →OCLC, pages 147–148:
      'Tis extremely difficult to keep up the Spirit of Poetry in another's Compoſitions, tho' you catch all the [] apteſt Moments; and never employ the Mind, but when there is an Impetus comes upon it toward that particular buſineſs: [] I know not how far this was the Caſe with Mr. [Alexander] Pope, in this performance: but wherever it was, the Poet will be little more than a common Man: He is, at ſuch times, much the ſame as a Prophet without his Afflatus.
    • 1822, Simon Patrick, William Lowth, Richard Arnald, Daniel Whitby, Moses Lowman, “The First Epistle to Timothy. With Annotations. [Annotations on Chap. IV.]”, in J[ohn] R[ogers] Pitman, editor, A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old and New Testament and the Apocrypha. [...] In Six Volumes, new edition, volume VI, London: Printed by J. F. Dove, St. John's Square; for Richard Priestley, 143, High Holborn, →OCLC, page 293:
      [] Men acted by seducing spirits: for πνεύματα doth often signify the impulses or afflatuses of good or evil spirits; [] You are zealous, πνευματων, of spiritual gifts, or afflatuses, and so throughout the chapter; []
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 3, in The History of Pendennis. [], volumes (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, →OCLC:
      He used to gallop Rebecca over the neighbouring Dumpling Downs, or into the county town, which, if you please, we shall call Chatteris, spouting his own poems, and filled with quite a Byronic afflatus as he thought.
    • 1873 March, H[enry] James Jr., “The Madonna of the Future”, in The Atlantic Monthly: A Magazine of Literature, Science, Art, and Politics, volume XXXI, number CLXXXV, Boston, Mass.: James R. Osgood and Company, late Ticknor & Fields, and Fields, Osgood & Co., page 276:
      We had been talking about the masters who had achieved but a single masterpiece,—the artists and poets who but once in their lives had known the divine afflatus, and touched the high level of the best.
    • 1885–1886, Henry James, chapter XVII, in The Bostonians [], London; New York, N.Y.: Macmillan and Co., published 16 February 1886, →OCLC, 1st book, page 141:
      Miss Verena was a natural genius, and he hoped very much she [Miss Chancellor] wasn't going to take the nature out of her. She could study up as she went along; she had got the great thing that you couldn't learn, a kind of divine afflatus, as the ancients used to say, and she had better just begin on that.
    • 1900 May, Charles H[enry] Hull, “Petty’s Place in the History of Economic Theory”, in The Quarterly Journal of Economics, volume 14, number 3, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, →DOI, →ISSN, →OCLC, section II, page 318:
      "I hope," he [William Petty] writes to Aubrey, "that no man takes what I say about the living and dying of men for a mathematical demonstration." But, when the afflatus was on him, he was prone to take what he said for a mathematical demonstration himself.
    • 1920, H[enry] L[ouis] Mencken, “The National Letters. 4. The Ferment Underground.”, in Prejudices: Second Series, New York, N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, →OCLC, page 26:
      Imagine a sentimental young man of the provinces, awaking one morning to the somewhat startling discovery that he is full of the divine afflatus, and nominated by the hierarchy of hell to enrich the literature of his fatherland.
    • 2018 January 2, Adam Gopnik, “Never Mind Churchill, Clement Attlee is a Model for These Times”, in The New Yorker[1], archived from the original on 7 January 2018:
      Titled "Citizen Clem" in Britain (Oxford University Press published it here as "Clement Attlee: The Man Who Made Modern Britain"), it is a study in actual radical accomplishment with minimal radical afflatus—a story of how real social change can be achieved, providing previously unimaginable benefits to working people, entirely within an embrace of parliamentary principles as absolute and as heroic as any in the annals of democracy.


Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ Cicero, H. Rackham, translator (1967) De Natura Deorum; Academica (Cicero in Twenty-eight Volumes; XIX; Loeb Classical Library; 268), Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann, →OCLC, book II, LXVI, section 167, pages 282–283:Nemo igitur vir magnus sine aliquo adflatu divino umquam fuit. [Therefore no great man ever existed who did not enjoy some portion of divine inspiration.]

Further reading[edit]


English Wikipedia has an article on:


Perfect passive participle of afflō (I blow, breathe (on or towards)).



afflātus m (genitive afflātūs); fourth declension

  1. breath (directed upon some object)
  2. (poetry, religion) afflation (from an inspiring spirit from an unknown source in Cicero; from a divine spirit in a pagan context or from the Holy Spirit in later Christian contexts)


Fourth-declension noun.

Case Singular Plural
Nominative afflātus afflātūs
Genitive afflātūs afflātuum
Dative afflātuī afflātibus
Accusative afflātum afflātūs
Ablative afflātū afflātibus
Vocative afflātus afflātūs


  • Catalan: aflat
  • English: afflatus
  • Italian: afflato
  • Occitan: aflat
  • Portuguese: aflato
  • Spanish: aflato


afflātus (feminine afflāta, neuter afflātum); first/second-declension participle

  1. blown, breathed on, having been blown or breathed on


First/second-declension adjective.

Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masculine Feminine Neuter Masculine Feminine Neuter
Nominative afflātus afflāta afflātum afflātī afflātae afflāta
Genitive afflātī afflātae afflātī afflātōrum afflātārum afflātōrum
Dative afflātō afflātō afflātīs
Accusative afflātum afflātam afflātum afflātōs afflātās afflāta
Ablative afflātō afflātā afflātō afflātīs
Vocative afflāte afflāta afflātum afflātī afflātae afflāta


  • afflatus”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • afflatus in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.