tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər How to pronounce temper (audio) \

Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : heat of mind or emotion : proneness to anger : passion she has a real temper
b : calmness of mind : composure
c : state of feeling or frame of mind at a particular time usually dominated by a single strong emotion
d : a characteristic cast of mind or state of feeling : disposition
2a : characteristic tone : trend the temper of the times
b : high quality of mind or spirit : courage
c archaic : a suitable proportion or balance of qualities : a middle state between extremes : mean, medium virtue is … a just temper between propensities— T. B. Macaulay
d archaic : character, quality the temper of the land you design to sow— John Mortimer
3a : the state of a substance with respect to certain desired qualities (such as hardness, elasticity, or workability) especially : the degree of hardness or resiliency given steel by tempering
b : the feel and relative solidity of leather
4 : a substance (such as a metal) added to or mixed with something else (such as another metal) to modify the properties of the latter


tempered; tempering\ ˈtem-​p(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce tempering (audio) \

Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to dilute, qualify, or soften by the addition or influence of something else : moderate temper justice with mercy
2a : to anneal or toughen (glass) by a process of gradually heating and cooling
b(1) : to harden (a material, such as steel) by reheating and cooling in oil
(2) : to soften (a material, such as hardened steel or cast iron) by reheating at a lower temperature
3 : to make stronger and more resilient through hardship : toughen troops tempered in battle
4 : to bring to a suitable state by mixing in or adding a usually liquid ingredient: such as
a : to mix (clay) with water or a modifier (such as grog) and knead to a uniform texture
b : to mix oil with (colors) in making paint ready for use
5a : to put in tune with something : attune
b : to adjust the pitch of (a note, chord, or instrument) to a temperament
6 archaic
a : to exercise control over : govern, restrain
b : to cause to be well disposed : mollify tempered and reconciled them both— Richard Steele

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Other Words from temper


temperable \ ˈtem-​p(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce temperable (audio) \ adjective
temperer \ ˈtem-​pər-​ər How to pronounce temperer (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for temper


disposition, temperament, temper, character, personality mean the dominant quality or qualities distinguishing a person or group. disposition implies customary moods and attitude toward the life around one. a cheerful disposition temperament implies a pattern of innate characteristics associated with one's specific physical and nervous organization. an artistic temperament temper implies the qualities acquired through experience that determine how a person or group meets difficulties or handles situations. a resilient temper character applies to the aggregate of moral qualities by which a person is judged apart from intelligence, competence, or special talents. strength of character personality applies to an aggregate of qualities that distinguish one as a person. a somber personality

Mix Things Up With the Meaning of Temper

The temper root keeps its basic meaning—"to mix" or "to keep within limits"—in the English word temper. When you temper something, you mix it with some balancing quality or substance so as to avoid anything extreme. Thus, it's often said that a judge must temper justice with mercy. Young people only gradually learn to temper their natural enthusiasms with caution. And in dealing with others, we all try to temper our honesty with sensitivity.

Examples of temper in a Sentence

Noun She has a bad temper. That boy has quite a temper. He needs to learn to control his temper. She hit him in a fit of temper. He slammed the door and left in a temper. It's often difficult for parents not to lose their tempers. He is in a pleasant temper. Verb The steel must be properly tempered.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The strategy is an attempt to temper competition between firms and countries as the race to find treatments and a potential vaccine for the new coronavirus intensifies. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, "Fact check: China doesn't own patent for coronavirus treatment remdesivir," 15 May 2020 But Allison was also stubborn, strong-willed, and had an overwhelming passion that could set off a quick temper. Paula Schleis, cincinnati.com, "She told guardsmen at Kent State 'Flowers are better than bullets!' Then a bullet killed her.," 2 May 2020 The guys inside are on edge without any kind of protection in such close quarters and tempers are flaring. Shaheen Pasha, Longreads, "Following the North Star," 1 May 2020 Although Mattie knows to keep Ashley at arm's length due to her always changing alliances and hot temper. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "The Challenge: Total Madness recap: A personal attack results in a champ's downfall," 23 Apr. 2020 But Mike says Sue's actions went way beyond a bad temper. Peter Van Sant, CBS News, "Was a Florida man's violent confrontation with his wife prompted by his daughter's high-end wedding?," 4 Apr. 2020 However, tempers erupted after the Senate failed for a second time to advance the massive stimulus package that will address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, with lawmakers accusing the other party of holding up negotiations. NBC News, "Dow closes down 600 points after government stimulus package fails again," 23 Mar. 2020 In other hands, Cromwell’s narrative might feel like dusty, creaky history, but Mantel colors the books with the smells, tastes, textures, and tempers that make his universe come alive. Gillian Jacobs, Glamour, "Hilary Mantel Closes a Chapter," 10 Mar. 2020 An event that brought countless thousands into the streets to express their outrage, a spectacle so impressive in size and temper that the bill was withdrawn. Dorothy Rabinowitz, WSJ, "‘Battle for Hong Kong’ Review: A People Rises Up," 6 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The family portrait that emerges is unsparing, but it is tempered with the tenderness of Danler’s language, and with her willingness to reserve her harshest rebukes for herself. The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 18 May 2020 But Suh is still vicious — though he's tempered his infamous on-field temper — and highly versatile, effective against the run and pass and able to play every down in any kind of scheme. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "NFL free agency 2020: Top 10 unsigned players following first wave of signings," 21 Mar. 2020 Imus’ unsparing on-air persona was tempered by his off-air philanthropy, raising more than $40 million for groups including the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. David Bauder, Twin Cities, "DJ Don Imus, made and betrayed by his mouth, dead at 79," 27 Dec. 2019 Imus’ unsparing on-air persona was tempered by his off-air philanthropy, raising more than $40 million for groups including the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Time, "DJ Don Imus, Made and Betrayed by His Sharp Tongue, Dead at 79," 27 Dec. 2019 But Beijing is trying to temper expectations, while companies express frustration over the halting pace of market-opening. Washington Post, "China tempers hopes about US tariff truce," 15 Oct. 2019 Trump tempers his comments by saying even one death is too many, but he's also appeared relieved at the notion of a toll of 60,000. Darlene Superville, Anchorage Daily News, "US coronavirus death toll passes 60,000 - which Trump cited as a possible final pandemic count," 30 Apr. 2020 But even this relief was tempered with a sense of shame that, for me, stay-at-home motherhood still felt like a crutch. Sara Petersen, New York Times, "Why Having a Third Baby Felt Like the Safe Choice," 17 Apr. 2020 But even as a kid, my enjoyment was always tempered with concern about the neighbors. Eric Spitznagel, Popular Mechanics, "Who Did 'DITTO' First?," 19 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'temper.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of temper


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2c


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for temper


Middle English tempure, tempyr, temper "moderation, mixture of things in proper proportion, mental state," probably noun derivative of tempren, temperen "to mix with, soften, moderate" — more at temper entry 2


Middle English tempren, temperen "to be mixed with, mix with, soften, moderate, regulate, tune," in part going back to Old English temprian "to mix with, moderate," borrowed from Latin temperāre "to exercise moderation, restrain oneself, moderate, bring to a proper strength or consistency by mixing, maintain in a state of balance," perhaps derivative of temper-, variant stem of tempor-, tempus "period of time"; in part borrowed from Anglo-French temprer, tremper, going back to Latin temperāre — more at tempo

Note: The derivation of temperāre from temper- and hence tempus is based on the hypothesis that the original meaning of the noun was "extent, measure"; however, it is not entirely certain that the meanings "to restrain" or "to bring to a suitable state by mixing" (whichever might be the original meaning of temperāre) are consonant with the idea of measuring.

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Time Traveler for temper

Time Traveler

The first known use of temper was before the 12th century

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Statistics for temper

Last Updated

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Temper.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temper. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for temper


How to pronounce temper (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the tendency of someone to become angry
: a state of being angry
: calmness of mind



English Language Learners Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : to make (something) less severe or extreme
technical : to cause (something, such as steel or glass) to become hard or strong by heating it and cooling it


tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər How to pronounce temper (audio) \

Kids Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : characteristic state of feeling She has a very even temper.
2 : calmness of mind I lost my temper.
3 : a tendency to become angry Try to control your temper.
5 : the hardness or toughness of a substance (as metal)


tempered; tempering

Kids Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make less severe or extreme : soften Mountains temper the wind.
2 : to heat and cool a substance (as steel) until it is as hard, tough, or flexible as is wanted

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More from Merriam-Webster on temper

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for temper

Spanish Central: Translation of temper

Nglish: Translation of temper for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of temper for Arabic Speakers

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