te·​mer·​i·​ty tə-ˈmer-ə-tē How to pronounce temerity (audio)
plural temerities
: unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition : rashness, recklessness
: a rash or reckless act

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When you’re feeling saucy, there’s no shortage of words in the English language you can use to describe the particular flavor of your metaphorical sauce, from audacity and effrontery to the Yiddish-derived fan favorite chutzpah. If we may be so bold, let us also suggest temerity: it comes from the Latin temere, meaning “recklessly” or “haphazardly,” and is good for suggesting boldness even in the face of danger or likely punishment. Temerity is a formal word, rarely used in casual writing or conversation, but provided you have the cheek to flout this convention, you may be thinking “what have I got to lose?”

Choose the Right Synonym for temerity

temerity, audacity, hardihood, effrontery, nerve, cheek, gall, chutzpah mean conspicuous or flagrant boldness.

temerity suggests boldness arising from rashness and contempt of danger.

had the temerity to refuse

audacity implies a disregard of restraints commonly imposed by convention or prudence.

an entrepreneur with audacity and vision

hardihood suggests firmness in daring and defiance.

admired for her hardihood

effrontery implies shameless, insolent disregard of propriety or courtesy.

outraged at his effrontery

nerve, cheek, gall, and chutzpah are informal equivalents for effrontery.

the nerve of that guy
has the cheek to call herself a singer
had the gall to demand proof
the chutzpah needed for a career in show business

Example Sentences

He defeated giant corporations—the auto industry, big pharma—back when no one else was even trying to; he had the temerity to believe that fighting for safety and quality and transparency was a quintessentially American thing to do. Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly, 16 Feb. 2007
A wisp of a kid (six feet, 160 pounds) with the temerity to buzz pitches up and in to Barry Bonds, Hudson has a bit of Pedro in him. ESPN, 24 July 2000
… all the while you're balancing your two prevailing interests: recording her words to later use against her—because, she, too, had the temerity to be relatively famous and attractive (with a master's from Penn)—while also, more pressingly, trying to get invited back to her apartment. Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, 2000
He was punished for his temerity. she had the temerity to ask me if she could borrow some money even though she never repaid the last loan
Recent Examples on the Web Later, Ogletree wondered at his own temerity. Emily Bazelon, New York Times, 15 Feb. 2023 As in men clutching theirs every time a female sports star has the temerity to act like one. Mary Mcnamara, Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2023 But one target found itself in Benchley’s cross hairs and stayed there week after week after week: an unassuming 1922 romantic comedy that had the temerity to draw Broadway audiences — and keep drawing them — after Benchley and his critical cohort had suggested that these audiences look elsewhere. New York Times, 11 May 2022 And embolden them, and give them the temerity to go out in the wilderness and try to survive. Kate Aurthur, Variety, 24 Mar. 2023 Amazed at the temerity of a mere intern to second guess his literary brilliance, Bottitta’s D’Agata treats Jonah Robinson’s Fingal like a pesky mosquito that has entered his home thorough a hole in a screen. Charles Mcnultytheater Critic, Los Angeles Times, 3 Mar. 2023 Despite my temerity as an American commenting on an important European initiative, Professor Lopatta was gracious enough to be willing to talk to me. Robert G. Eccles, Forbes, 23 Jan. 2023 Last month, as the movie was released, he was widely vilified for having the temerity to suggest that Europeans were more sensitive to wars in Europe than in Africa. Roger Cohen, New York Times, 22 Feb. 2023 Berber had the temerity to insist, no, to demand, that Riverside City College follow Title IX regulations to the letter, that her team get the exact same treatment as men’s teams. Los Angeles Times, 17 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'temerity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English temeryte, borrowed from Latin temeritāt- temeritās, from temere "blindly, recklessly, haphazardly" + -itāt- -itās -ity; temere going back to adverbialized locative singular of a noun *temes- "darkness," going back to Indo-European *temH-es-, whence also Sanskrit tamas- "darkness, gloom," Avestan tǝmah-, and, from the base *temH-, Lithuanian témsta, témti "to become dark," tamsà "darkness," tim͂sras "dark red (of a horse), sorrel," Old Church Slavic tĭma "darkness," tĭmĭnŭ "dark, gloomy," and from a *-ro- adjectival derivative Sanskrit tamra- "darkening, oppressive," Germanic *þemra- "darkness," whence Old High German demar "dusk, twilight"

Note: See also tenebrae.

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of temerity was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near temerity

Cite this Entry

“Temerity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temerity. Accessed 28 May. 2023.

Kids Definition


te·​mer·​i·​ty tə-ˈmer-ət-ē How to pronounce temerity (audio)
: the quality or state of being recklessly or foolishly bold

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