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 What is it called when a snowman has a temper tantrum? Corinne Sullivan, Woman's Day, "70 Winter Instagram Captions to Accompany Your Perfect Snowy Pics," 11 Dec. 2020 Democrats are concerned that Trump may be successful at making Biden lose his temper by talking about Hunter Biden. Annie Karni And Maggie Haberman, chicagotribune.com, "Trump, with his baseless attacks on Joe Biden’s mental status, may have set a trap for himself in the first debate," 27 Sep. 2020 There is a way of singing that is a distant cousin of the temper tantrum. Krista Stevens, Longreads, "Longreads Best of 2020: Music Writing," 10 Dec. 2020 But his refusal to concede, the destructiveness of his temper tantrum, and the willingness of almost the entire Republican Party to indulge him have surpassed even pessimists' expectations. Arkansas Online, "PAUL KRUGMAN: Trump Wars II: The Loser Strikes Back," 28 Nov. 2020 The hardest thing for me late in my career was being able to control my emotions and my temper. Los Angeles Times, "Lizard eyes, grit and avocado ice cream: QBs analyze Tom Brady’s greatness," 23 Nov. 2020 The company instead hopes to reach the bulk of impolite commenters—those everyday people who occasionally lose their temper and forget their manners online, Mr. Shoval said. Katie Deighton, WSJ, "Online Platforms Ask Users to Be Polite With ‘Nudges’," 2 Oct. 2020 Parents learn ways to curb behaviors like temper tantrums and talking back, and encourage behaviors like going to bed on time. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘Positive Parenting’ outreach helps parents cope with stress of child rearing," 17 Nov. 2020 Kobe had lost his temper at Wendy’s and his grandfather, Erwin, left him to walk the six blocks home. Star Tribune, "“They have been doing business their way, and it's not been fair to people of brown and black skin. It's time for a change, and we must work together to make that change become a reality.”," 24 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Chocolatiers and pastry chefs know how to temper chocolate to get that perfectly glossy finish and proper set and snap, but the typical home cook, especially one without an instant-read thermometer, might find this more challenging. Washington Post, "Hot cocoa bombs are the perfect storm of viral food trends," 21 Dec. 2020 There’s no industry to temper that or help people transition and develop new skills. J.j. Anselmi, The New Republic, "The Rise and Fall of a Fracking Boom Town: An Oral History," 21 Dec. 2020 Remove the liquid from the stovetop and temper the yolk mixture. Rebecca White, Dallas News, "Peppermint ice cream recipe with 5 simple ingredients," 15 Dec. 2020 Restoring about 1,000 acres of marsh would not only stave off salinity, state officials say, but temper the sometimes choppy waters that erode riverbanks and levees. Kurtis Alexander, San Francisco Chronicle, "Delta dilemma: fishing or fresh water?," 10 Dec. 2020 Some investors are betting that the Federal Reserve could start buying more long-term U.S. Treasurys as soon as its next policy meeting, a trend that has helped temper some recent selling and kept yields from rising higher. Sam Goldfarb, WSJ, "Bets on More Fed Bond-Buying Help Contain Treasury Yields," 2 Dec. 2020 Just make sure to temper this celestial pull into the clouds in some way. Tarot Astrologers, chicagotribune.com, "Daily horoscope for December 20, 2020," 20 Dec. 2020 But corporate investors hoping for big tax and other savings may need to temper their enthusiasm. Richard Rubin And Theo Francis, WSJ, "Texas’ Tax Advantage Is All About Individuals, Not Business Taxes," 16 Dec. 2020 Even many activists who regularly protest the police temper their criticism when asked directly about Chief Gentry. New York Times, "Louisville Is Clamoring for Police Reform. Can an Interim Chief Deliver?," 2 Dec. 2020

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

26 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Temper.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temper. Accessed 18 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for temper


How to pronounce temper (audio)

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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Comments on temper

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