tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər \

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 \

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 \ adjective
temperer \ ˈtem-​pər-​ər \ 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


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.


The steel must be properly tempered.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Volcanic explosions of temper are probably inevitable when a family is cooped up together inside a hunk of metal for days, or weeks. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "What They Don't Tell You About Cross-Country Family Road Trips," 23 July 2018 And in the final seconds, tempers were high after another case of what some basketball purists would call another case of the Warriors rubbing it in the face of an opponent. Jason Jones, sacbee, "Why the Cavaliers seemed annoyed with the officials (and the Warriors) after Game 1," 31 May 2018 Green’s temper and intensity are always under the microscope. Ben Golliver, SI.com, "Draymond Green, Rajon Rondo Blame Each Other for Repeated Confrontations," 5 May 2018 From the time Ben Simmons took a hard foul on Lance Stephenson in the second quarter, tempers were short on both sides. Clifton Brown, Indianapolis Star, "Pacers beat Sixers in playoff-like atmosphere," 13 Mar. 2018 Trump’s always formidable temper has been shorter-fused than usual, his willingness to listen less than normal. Philip Elliott, Time, "Inside Donald Trump's Twitter-Fueled Weekend Meltdown," 20 Feb. 2018 His immigration policy will continue to follow this pattern: temper tantrum, crackdown, backlash. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trumpism doesn’t win majorities. And Trump doesn’t care.," 7 Nov. 2018 The overt political action came when more than 600 employees at Facebook collectively pitched a temper tantrum. WSJ, "Facebook’s Orwellian Groupthink Triumphs," 12 Oct. 2018 Some were among the 200 enslaved by Archibald Cary, a man with a notorious temper who, at the time of his 1787 death, owned 4,000 acres of land. Andrew M. Davenport, Smithsonian, "Putting Enslaved Families’ Stories Back in the Monticello Narrative," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Phantoms brings a slinky darkness to its live stage show, tempered by a delightfully unpretentious bit of stage banter. Kat Bein, Billboard, "Phantoms & Nicole Millar Have Pure Vibes On Their 'Agenda:' Exclusive," 12 July 2018 But that has not tempered criticism of Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson, who was voted out of office in November. P.r. Lockhart, Vox, "Amber Guyger has been indicted for murder after the Botham Jean shooting," 30 Nov. 2018 Supervisors also tempered their concern over a plan to build a private marina on Yerba Buena Island after Supervisor Jane Kim announced that the developer had scaled back the proposal. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "SF supes OK two for Police Commission, which now has a quorum," 5 June 2018 These structural constraints historically facing progressive black executives temper our enthusiasm of Abrams’ ability to implement her progressive vision. Dorian Warren, Time, "How Stacey Abrams’ Historic Win Could Change the Democratic Party," 24 May 2018 Expectations should have been tempered based on Miami's decision to gut its roster and start over. Adam H. Beasley, miamiherald, "'Frustrated' Derek Jeter on Miami Marlins' rough start to 2018: 'I have no patience' | Miami Herald," 16 May 2018 Deutsch and James are gloriously ill-tempered in their high-decibel exchanges, while Hood and Rogers are hilarious in their less showy turns. F. Kathleen Foley, latimes.com, "'Bad Jews' at the Odyssey: High-decibel hilarity," 2 May 2018 This tempered approach on the part of the Democratic leaders of the House Judiciary Committee enabled Republicans to also vote for Nixon’s impeachment. Elizabeth Drew, The New Republic, "The End of Impeachment," 10 Apr. 2018 If his childhood instilled King’s belief in a loving God, Niebuhr’s work tempered his idealism and contributed to his strategy of mass mobilisation. The Economist, "The making of Martin Luther King’s speeches," 28 Mar. 2018

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, from Old English & Anglo-French; Old English temprian & Anglo-French temprer, from Latin temperare to moderate, mix, temper; probably akin to Latin tempor-, tempus time

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Statistics for temper

Last Updated

7 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for temper

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

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More Definitions for temper



English Language Learners Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: to make (something) less severe or extreme

: to cause (something, such as steel or glass) to become hard or strong by heating it and cooling it



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

: the tendency of someone to become angry

: a state of being angry

: calmness of mind


tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər \

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

Comments on temper

What made you want to look up temper? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to settle judicially or to act as judge

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