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

Synonyms for temper

Synonyms: Noun

disposition, grain, nature, temperament

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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

Unlike the first two games of this series that were marked by flaring tempers and alleged beanballs, Wednesday's finale was tame. Michael Wagaman, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Jose Urena unravels in 6th, Giants hang on for series win," 20 June 2018 Back in the courtroom after tempers had cooled and with sheriff's deputies standing by, Isquick asked that some of Wolkin's comments be stricken from the record. Andrea Simakis, cleveland.com, "Cleveland Clinic, parents clash over girl's brain tumor treatment; court to decide," 13 May 2018 Despite the many awards for his science fiction and fantasy stories, his reputation suffered, particularly towards the end of his life, from his mercurial and sometimes violent temper, which led to transgressive and criminal behavior. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Harlan Ellison’s Death Raises a #MeToo Quandary," 2 July 2018 The beer is cold and the tempers are running hot at legendary biker bar Cactus Jack's Saloon Grill over President Donald Trump's ongoing feud with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, "Trump's battle with Harley-Davidson over foreign tariffs tests motorcycle riders' loyalty," 28 June 2018 Wiedefeld said the morning commute had gone smoothly but sought to temper expectations about the potential for historic ridership. Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, "Washington celebrates the Capitals first Stanley Cup with a victory parade and rally," 12 June 2018 Weaknesses: Mendenhall tried to temper expectations of his first-year starting quarterback after spring practice, but junior college transfer Bryce Perkins may spark some optimism. Safid Deen, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Rebuilding Virginia is No. 94 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 25 May 2018 Where the movie does score, however, echoing the temper of our times, is in alerting us to the murmur of predation. Anthony Lane, The New Yorker, "“First Reformed” and “The Seagull”," 11 May 2018 Both sides had been warned by plate umpire Andy Fletcher the previous inning after Giants rookie starter Dereck Rodriguez beaned Lewis Brinson as tempers flared for a second straight game. Janie Mccauley, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Straily, Mattingly both ejected in Marlins' loss to Giants," 20 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 After winning his fifth major at the 2013 British Open, Mickelson went five years and 102 starts without a victory, a stretch, however, that didn’t temper his optimism. Steve Dimeglio, USA TODAY, "The Masters field is wide open, so good luck picking a winner," 2 Apr. 2018 The concern is that trade tensions will disrupt global growth, tempering expectations for an economic surge spurred by recent tax cuts. Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "Behind the Flattening Yield Curve: Fed Rate Increases and Tariff Fights," 5 July 2018 Many North Korea experts said Mr. Kim did no such thing, and Mr. Trump has since tempered his public expectations. Rick Gladstone, New York Times, "Trump and Kim May Define ‘Korea Denuclearization’ Quite Differently," 10 June 2018 But let that temper your expectations, not deplete them. Brian Barrett, WIRED, "It's Time to Get Excited About the Future of PCs. (Yes, PCs)," 8 June 2018 Analysts said that the back-and-forth over whether the meeting will occur should temper expectations about what the summit might achieve. David S. Cloud, latimes.com, "A day after canceling North Korea summit, Trump says it may be back on," 25 May 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

14 Oct 2018

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

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one that holds something together

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