tem·​per·​a·​ment | \ˈtem-p(ə-)rə-mənt, -pər-mənt\

Definition of temperament 

1a : characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response a nervous temperament

b : extremely high sensibility especially : excessive sensitiveness or irritability

c : the peculiar or distinguishing mental or physical character determined by the relative proportions of the humors according to medieval physiology

2a : the act or process of tempering or modifying : adjustment, compromise

b : middle course : mean

3 : the slight modification of acoustically pure intervals in tuning a musical instrument especially : modification that produces a set of 12 equally spaced tones to the octave

4 obsolete

a : constitution of a substance, body, or organism with respect to the mixture or balance of its elements, qualities, or parts : makeup

b : complexion sense 1

5 obsolete

a : climate

b : temperature sense 1

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Synonyms for temperament


disposition, grain, nature, temper

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Choose the Right Synonym for temperament

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

Why is temperament spelled the way it is?

Blame Latin.

Like the related noun temper (which most often refers to a person's tendency to become angry, but also has a neutral sense very close to that of temperament, among other meanings) temperament traces back to a Latin word, temperare, which means "to mix or blend." The a in temperare lives on in the modern spelling of temperament.

Temperament is an old word (it dates to the 15th century) with multiple meanings, but in modern use it typically refers to the usual attitude, mood, or behavior of a person or animal. If you're adopting a dog, you might look for one with a sweet temperament; you might describe someone who is often nervous as having a nervous temperament.

What is the difference between disposition and predisposition?

What exactly is someone's disposition? And is it different from a predisposition? A person's disposition is his or her usual mood or attitude. Are you typically pretty happy? You could be described as having a happy—or cheerful, or sunny—disposition. Animals have dispositions too; a dog with a nervous disposition doesn't easily relax into a restful pup curled up at someone’s feet. In this use, disposition is a synonym of temperament; both words refer to the complex set of attitudes and inclinations that guide behavior.

Disposition can also mean "tendency" or "inclination," and in such cases it has a surprising synonym: predisposition. A disposition to exaggerate is the same as a predisposition to exaggerate. A disposition toward humility is likewise the same thing as a predisposition toward humility. The fact of being "in advance" that the prefix pre- implies hardly matters when tendency and inclination are concerned, since both concern what is likely to happen in the future.

While phrases like "a disposition to cooperate" are about as common as "a predisposition to cooperate," when the context is medical, predisposition is far more common. Phrases like "a genetic predisposition to nearsightedness" appear much more frequently in published, edited text than similar phrases employing disposition.

Examples of temperament in a Sentence

The two women were opposite in temperament. looking for a dog with a sweet temperament

Recent Examples on the Web

But the president received negative marks from voters on temperament and trustworthiness. Catherine Lucey, The Seattle Times, "Despite House loss, Trump still sees midterms success," 7 Nov. 2018 As fellow air signs, rationally oriented Gemini and Libra are the most compatible to your cool and objective temperament. Ashley Otero, Teen Vogue, "Who You Should Date, Based on Your Horoscope," 20 Aug. 2018 But there are other issues involving judicial temperament and his political, or rather, his judicial philosophy that also will play into my decision. Claire Zillman, Fortune, "Oprah Winfrey Empire, Angela Merkel, Paternity Leave: Broadsheet July 12th," 12 July 2018 His Juliet, Devon Teuscher (also making her role debut), is a tall ballerina with a proud temperament and fabulous Katharine Hepburn cheekbones. Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "4 Buzzy ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Debuts, 1 Fainthearted Production," 15 June 2018 All five children were ardent, volatile, and responsive to human temperament and artistic beauty. Richard Davenport-hines, WSJ, "‘Those Wild Wyndhams’ Review: Gilded Captives of Their Time," 15 June 2018 Your performance was terrible in that the show lacked mood, temperament and just about everything else a show needs for success. Nick Romano, EW.com, "President Trump considers pardoning Martha Stewart," 31 May 2018 But, given Trump’s temperament and limited understanding of international relations, a breakthrough was highly unlikely—at least in a summit between the two leaders. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Donald Trump just pulled out of the North Korea summit.," 24 May 2018 Before he can be accepted, the group has to determine if the dog has the right temperament and is trainable, Brady said. Mary Shanklin, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Orlando veteran to serve on condo board trying to take his dog," 23 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'temperament.' 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 temperament

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4

History and Etymology for temperament

Middle English, from Latin temperamentum, from temperare to mix, temper

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Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for temperament

The first known use of temperament was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for temperament



English Language Learners Definition of temperament

: the usual attitude, mood, or behavior of a person or animal


tem·​per·​a·​ment | \ˈtem-pə-rə-mənt, -prə-mənt\

Kids Definition of temperament

: a person's attitude as it affects what he or she says or does “Size has nothing to do with it. It's temperament and ability that count.”— E. B. White, Stuart Little


tem·​per·​a·​ment | \ˈtem-p(ə-)rə-mənt, -pər-mənt \

Medical Definition of temperament 

1 : the peculiar or distinguishing mental or physical character determined by the relative proportions of the humors according to medieval physiology

2 : characteristic or habitual inclination or mode of emotional response a nervous temperament

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Comments on temperament

What made you want to look up temperament? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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