Encourage, inspirit, hearten, embolden, cheer, nerve, steel mean to fill with courage or strength of purpose especially in preparation for a hard task or purpose.
Encourage in its basic and still common sense implies the raising of confidence to such a height that one dares to do or to bear what is difficult; it then usually suggests an external agent or agency stimulating one to action or endurance.
Sometimes it may suggest merely an increase in strength of purpose or in responsiveness to advice or inducement fostered by a person or an influence or event.
Encourage is often used with an impersonal object, sometimes as if the object were a person, but often as if it were the object not of encourage but of an ellipsis meaning to encourage a person or persons to act (as by doing, making, forming, or using).
Inspirit is chiefly literary; it retains its implication of putting spirit into, especially in the sense of life, energy, courage, or vigor, and therefore often comes close to enliven or to animate in meaning.
Hearten implies a putting heart into and carries suggestions that are stronger than those carried by either encourage or inspirit. It presupposes a state of low courage, depression, despondency, or indifference and therefore implies a lifting of mind or spirit that rouses one with fresh courage or zeal.
Embolden implies a giving of boldness to or, more especially, a giving of just enough courage or bravery to do what one wants to do or is expected to do and suggests not brazenness but the overcoming of timidity or reluctance.
Cheer in its basic sense is very close to hearten and implies a renewing of flagging strength of mind, body, or spirit. But cheer (usually with on ) may also imply a more vigorous encouraging (as by applause, commendation, or aid) intended not merely to strengthen and refresh but to stimulate to the utmost or sometimes to an ultimate attempt to do, succeed, or conquer.
Nerve comes close to embolden in meaning, but it implies a harder task to be performed and the need of summoning all one’s powers to accomplish it; the term therefore connotes greater effort or greater impulsion from within than the other words.
Steel, like nerve, may imply a great effort or impulsion from within, but it often also suggests an imparting from without, either of which gives a man the power to endure or to accomplish something by making him insensible to pain, suffering, or insults, and by filling him with resolution or determination.