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Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. The principle of inertia is one of the fundamental principles of classical physics which are used to describe the motion of matter and how it is affected by applied forces. Inertia comes from the Latin word, iners, meaning idle, or lazy. Isaac Newton defined inertia as his first law in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which states:

The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

In common usage the term "inertia" may refer to an object's "amount of resistance to change in velocity" (which is quantified by its mass), or sometimes to its momentum, depending on the context. The term "inertia" is more properly understood as shorthand for "the principle of inertia" as described by Newton in his First Law of Motion; that an object not subject to any net external force moves at a constant velocity. Thus an object will continue moving at its current velocity until some force causes its speed or direction to change.

On the surface of the Earth inertia is often masked by the effects of friction and gravity, both of which tend to decrease the speed of moving objects (commonly to the point of rest). This misled classical theorists such as Aristotle, who believed that objects would move only as long as force was applied to them