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 temper (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 temper (audio) \ adjective
temperer \ ˈtem-​pər-​ər How to pronounce temper (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 We were all stuck trying to keep the man-baby from screaming and throwing a temper tantrum all day long every day. Helen Shaw, Vulture, "Scott Rudin, As Told by His Assistants," 23 Apr. 2021 Below, the winners to break down their dominant final run, what this win means for their respective futures in the franchise, and of course, their thoughts on Fessy Shafaat's temper tantrum and disqualification. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "The Challenge: Double Agents winners break down that dominating final run," 22 Apr. 2021 But even more troublesome has been his various temper outbursts. Terry Pluto, cleveland, "Kevin Love embarrasses himself, his team and Cavaliers should take action – Terry Pluto," 27 Apr. 2021 Suddenly during the ride, Van lost his temper and started yelling at me. David Browne, Rolling Stone, "‘You Met a Leprechaun’: Read Rickie Lee Jones’ Surreal Van Morrison Meetup in Book Excerpt," 12 Apr. 2021 Cahill's temper has flared, but almost never in front of the jury. USA Today, "The judge in the Derek Chauvin case is orchestrating one of the nation’s most widely watched murder trials. Meet Peter Cahill.," 12 Apr. 2021 Thursday’s sentencing followed two related investigations involving multiple police departments and a suspect described by authorities as having an explosive temper toward women who spurned him. Washington Post, "Decades after his wife vanished, Virginia man is sentenced to 40 years in prison in her murder," 9 Apr. 2021 Don’t let your excitement about the offer temper the quality of your due diligence. George Bradt, Forbes, "Mastering The Seven Stages Of Executive Onboarding," 6 Apr. 2021 Her curious impulses and hot temper lead to scrapes, which in turn lead to her inevitable humiliation. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "What Beverly Cleary Taught Us About Feeling Mortified," 30 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In recent weeks, Lasso has sought to temper his conservative banker image with vows to help the poor and increase environmental protections, while stressing the need for foreign investment and pro-market reforms. Patrick J. Mcdonnell, Los Angeles Times, "Shadow of COVID-19 and economic downturn hovers over elections in Ecuador and Peru," 10 Apr. 2021 Stirring constantly, add a few spoonfuls of the hot sauce to the egg yolks to temper them, then stir the mixture back into the pot until glossy. Kate Krader, Bloomberg.com, "A Star Chef Breaks the Rules With a One-Hour Bolognese Sauce," 15 Jan. 2021 The fine print Pfizer and BioNTech's preliminary results come with some big warnings that should temper everyone's excitement. David Meyer, Fortune, "Pfizer’s blockbuster vaccine report flips the markets on their head—pandemic stocks sink, nearly everything else soars," 9 Nov. 2020 That, in turn, could lead to higher prices for these new 5G services – although the strong competition that’s going to exist may temper that. Bob O'donnell, USA TODAY, "What AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are buying up: The 5G battle between US carriers just got very interesting," 27 Feb. 2021 But more likely, the industry will try to temper what are likely to be major changes in the way government regulates nursing homes. Howard Gleckman, Forbes, "As The Policy Debate Over Nursing Homes Heats Up, Operators Are On The Defensive," 19 Mar. 2021 Guardiola was quick to temper expectations after the match on Tuesday, but insists winning the Champions League, a trophy that has so far alluded him during his glittering spell at Manchester City, remains a priority. Ben Church, CNN, "Manchester City remains on course to win an unprecedented quadruple, whether Pep Guardiola admits it or not," 17 Mar. 2021 Some observers say that history should temper expectations. CBS News, "Labor targets Amazon as a union foothold in the South," 12 Mar. 2021 But the experience of the 1960s should help temper expectations for the rest of us. Jason L. Riley, WSJ, "Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Great Society Remake," 9 Mar. 2021

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

13 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Temper.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temper. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for temper



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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