WOW. I was asked to define spirit!
Coming up with a spirit definition to satisfy everyone is impossible, yet the exercise of trying to accomplish this task can deepen spiritual awareness.
Our word spirit comes from a Latin word for both soul and breath, spiritus.
In Other Words
In ancient Greek spirit was pneuma (πνεύμα), also the word for breath which later came to mean spirit or soul.
In Sanskrit: The words akasha (the element filling and flowing around celestial realms) and ātman (breath in Indo-European but coming to mean soul, self, or ego in Hinduism and Buddhism) and prana (vital force or ) all express spirit.
The Hebrew words ruach (רוח; wind) and Ruach HaKodesh (רוח הקודש; divine wind) mean spirit and Holy Spirit.
In Chinese culture the word qi (air) meaning vital energy-flow can also express spirit.
From early on, in most (if not all) languages, spirit collected many meanings, connotations, and associations.
Spirit was usually linked to universal elements and vital functions.
Perhaps spirit definition began with wind breezing or water churning or earth quaking or fire crackling near a solitary someone hooked on pondering cosmic mysteries.
In shamanic ways, as well as in many earth-centered and New Age religions, spirit is one and whole, yet is related to as an interconnecting and multi-dimensional many (many!) spirits.
Besides keeping company with animal spirits, shamans work with spirits of elements, minerals, plants, and many more kinds. Spirits can be visible or invisible; ordinary or non-ordinary; earthly, extra-terrestrial, celestial, or other-dimensional.
Spirit definition can easily be taken seriously or literally, which takes the fun out of it. BTW, my favorite word for spirit is FUN.
Placing dogmatic limits on spirit and spirits is as futile as trying to catch the wind, or collect the oceans in a bucket, or...go ahead and make up your own metaphor for it.
I am sure you already understand.
Oops! Because the spirits of Zemanta.com kept 'helping' I couldn't resist letting this post become a Wikipedia-fest.