temperament

noun tem·per·a·ment \ ˈtem-p(ə-)rə-mənt , -pər-mənt \
Updated on: 13 Dec 2017

Definition of temperament

1 a : 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
2 a : 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 1
5 obsolete
a : climate
b : temperature 1

Examples of temperament in a Sentence

  1. The two women were opposite in temperament.

  2. looking for a dog with a sweet temperament

Recent Examples of temperament from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of temperament

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

TEMPERAMENT Defined for English Language Learners

temperament

noun

Definition of temperament for English Language Learners

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


TEMPERAMENT Defined for Kids

temperament

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

Definition of temperament for Students

: 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

Medical Dictionary

temperament

noun 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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