tem·​per·​a·​ment | \ ˈtem-p(ə-)rə-mənt How to pronounce temperament (audio) , -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
5 obsolete

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Synonyms for temperament


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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 Cambridge Analytica played to the anxious temperament of neurotic types in this ad by emphasizing the growing international risks and need for strong, stable leaders in the United States. Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, "These are the political ads Cambridge Analytica designed for you," 10 Jan. 2020 That’s a brash title considering the bookish temperament of the story, which follows a group of bright young political idealists in a story peppered with references to 17th-century British literature. Mark Athitakis, Washington Post, "Surveillance, hacking, government overreach: ‘Overthrow’ tackles modern fears," 23 Aug. 2019 So much will depend on your team members' experience, temperament and strengths, as well as your own -- not to mention how everyone gets along with each other. Jeanne Sahadi, CNN, "6 ways to be a better boss and a happier one," 30 Dec. 2019 Yet his key contribution to our nation was having the knowledge, temperament and leadership to get us out of an economic morass. Edward Lotterman, Twin Cities, "Real World Economics: Paul Volcker — the right man for his times," 15 Dec. 2019 Canine concierge members will assist with registration and setting up the temperament test. Austen Erblat, sun-sentinel.com, "New dog day care to serve as hurricane shelter for pets," 11 Oct. 2019 The concerto genre, with its built-in competitiveness between soloist and orchestra, was a good fit for Mr. Rouse’s temperament. New York Times, "Christopher Rouse, Composer of Rage and Delicacy, Dies at 70," 23 Sep. 2019 And so, Canada’s not been subject to wild swings of political temperament. Ian Bremmer, Time, "Ian Bremmer Speaks with Canada's Jason Kenney About Trudeau, China and Polarization," 26 Sep. 2019 The idea was to explore what language choices reveal about stereotypes of national temperament. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, "Northern composure: Can Canada stave off the West’s populist anger?," 5 Apr. 2019

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, "regulation of the body's vital spirit, proportion of humors in the body," borrowed from Latin temperāmentum "mixture of substances in proper proportion, mean between hot and cold, compromise between extremes, moderation" (Medieval Latin, "proper balance of bodily humors"), from temperāre "to moderate, bring to a proper strength or consistency by mixing, maintain in a state of balance" + -mentum -ment — more at temper entry 2

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Time Traveler for temperament

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for temperament

Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Temperament.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temperament. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for temperament


How to pronounce temperament (audio)

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 How to pronounce temperament (audio) , -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 How to pronounce temperament (audio) \

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).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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