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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Smucker said higher freight costs are also tempering profitability in its pet foods. Annie Gasparro, WSJ, "Smucker’s Pet Foods Lag Behind Expectations," 28 Nov. 2018 Having flown exclusively in the boutique world for several years, a considerable amount of this review will involve tempering or resetting expectations. Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, "Thrustmaster TPR: The best flight sim pedals you can buy in a store like a normal person," 23 Sep. 2018 Others this week, and this morning, have spoken to the depths of his torment, and the depths of his courage there in the cells, when day after day, year after year, that iron was tempered into steel. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Read Barack Obama’s eulogy for Sen. John McCain," 1 Sep. 2018 The Omen Obelisk desktop PCs offer a first among big PC vendors: tempered glass. Gordon Mah Ung, PCWorld, "HP's Omen Mindframe and Omen Obelisk bring special features to PC gaming," 21 Aug. 2018 But no decision has been made, and for the most part, lawmakers and senior administration officials are trying to temper expectations and deflect questions over a tax plan that, as of now, exists only in the president’s telling. Philip Rucker, The Seattle Times, "Officials scramble to make Trump’s false assertions real," 23 Oct. 2018 Others this week and this morning have spoken to the depths of his torment and the depths of his courage there in the cells of Hanoi when day after day, year after year that youthful iron was tempered into steel. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "Read the Full Transcript of Barack Obama's Speech at John McCain's Funeral," 1 Sep. 2018 General Manager Grace Crunican cautioned the board to temper its expectations of impenetrable fare gates arriving soon. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, "BART directors to evaluate program to crack down on fare cheats; delay expansion," 14 June 2018 But don't expect an agreement on nuclear weapons just yet The president attempted to temper expectations about the historic summit. Jessica Estepa, USA TODAY, "5 things to expect from the rescheduled President Trump-Kim Jong Un summit," 1 June 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

25 Nov 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

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a soft lustrous wool fabric with mohair

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