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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from temper


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

Synonyms for temper

Synonyms: Noun

disposition, grain, nature, temperament

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 The drama followed two lifelong best friends: Hap Collins (James Purefoy), an East Texas white guy with a weakness for Southern women, and Leonard Pine (Michael Kenneth Williams), a gay, black Vietnam vet with a hot temper. Lesley Goldberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hap and Leonard' Canceled at Sundance TV," 14 May 2018 No one who’s seen a New Yorker chew out a stranger on the street would be surprised by that last one, but fewer of us associate the state of barbecue and rodeos with mercurial tempers. Amanda Kolson Hurley, WIRED, "Climate Change Will Not Make Us Nicer," 20 Mar. 2018 The defense secretary has been increasingly concerned with McMaster's sometimes volcanic, and unpredictable, temper - and his tense relationship with Trump. chicagotribune.com, "McMaster's problem isn't Trump. It's Mattis and Kelly.," 7 Mar. 2018 At the time, Saturday’s protest didn’t just cause tempers to flare on the Dan Ryan and arterial roads; battle lines also were drawn in cyberspace as Rauner and Emanuel took to Twitter. Katherine Rosenberg-douglas, chicagotribune.com, "Father Pfleger waiting for elected officials' response before calling for future protests," 9 July 2018 As the country's blood pressure continues to rise over the separation of migrant children from their parents at the border, tempers flared Tuesday night on Fox News. Kyle Swenson, latimes.com, "'Womp womp': Trump insider Corey Lewandowski mocks story of child with Down syndrome taken from mother at border," 20 June 2018 But there was still time for tempers to flare and when Matić got into an altercation with Costa Rica coach Luis Marin. SI.com, "PHOTO: Man Utd Star Nemanja Matic Posts Brilliant Message After World Cup Scuffle," 19 June 2018 But every so often, tempers flare, necessitating a more stringent brand of justice. Corinne Ramey, WSJ, "The 15 People Who Keep Wikipedia’s Editors From Killing Each Other," 7 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Although the court was already a conservative body before Brett Kavanaugh came on the scene, its conservatism was somewhat tempered by Justice Anthony Kennedy. Mackenzie Long, Teen Vogue, "What Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh Could Mean for Women, Gun Control, and More," 8 Oct. 2018 Although Venusian energy is tempered by Capricorn's signature stoicism, this planet finds its erotic outlet by experimenting with power dynamics and role play. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What the Position of Venus in Your Birth Chart Means for You," 31 July 2018 The Raptors are a veteran-laden squad with high expectations, though their hopes are slightly tempered by the past failures of the current core. Rohan Nadkarni, SI.com, "2018 Eastern Conference Playoffs: Second Round Preview," 30 Apr. 2018 So, though not a middle himself, Adler believed that middles were naturally even-tempered and, due to their recognition of the injustice of their own situation, the most likely to fight against injustice in the world. Adam Sternbergh, The Cut, "The Extinction of the Middle Child," 11 July 2018 Jimmy King, gap-toothed, quick-tempered, a guard/small forward possessed of a superhuman vertical leap and an appetite for a defender to posterize. Carl Martin, Detroit Free Press, "Fab Five scandal doesn't tell full story of Ed Martin: 'He helped everybody'," 30 Apr. 2018 The Majik takes its color cue from blueberries and E3Live; The Pines tempers the peppery anti-inflammatory roots turmeric and ginger with pineapple, mango, and coconut milk. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Meet the NYC Detox Shop Where Cryotherapy and CBD-Infused Smoothies Are on the Menu," 11 July 2018 As 70-million-plus Millennials gradually edge out their elders, those interactions could eventually temper the culture wars that obstruct problem solving on national and local issues. Christa Case Bryant, The Christian Science Monitor, "How young liberals' moves to Red America may temper political divides," 6 July 2018 Browns fans probably don't want to experience a Mingo reboot from LSU, but the risk is more tempered in the second round. cleveland.com, "Ten defensive fits for the Browns on Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft," 27 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about temper

Dictionary Entries near temper








Statistics for temper

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for temper

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!