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

a : climate

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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

In today’s politics, a certain temperament is required to be a part of the center that’s barely holding. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump lost a battle on family separations, but his immigration war continues," 21 June 2018 Photo: iStockphoto Bengal Cat A cross between the Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic house cat, Bengals were first bred between the late 19th and early 20th century by those who wanted a pet with an exotic look but a domesticated temperament. Olivia Putnal, Woman's Day, "10 Unusual Animal Hybrids," 21 Sep. 2010 For those who are concerned about Trump’s erratic temperament, Pompeo and Haspel are alarming choices. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, "Rex Tillerson just got brutally dumped from the White House.," 13 Mar. 2018 The old Whitney has lost some of its funkiness as curators have tried to shoehorn in tasteful exhibitions into that are modern in classification but anesthetized in temperament. Kelsey Keith, Curbed, "The inaugural monthly column from Curbed’s editor-in-chief turns an eye to Postmodernism, following the loss of Robert Venturi," 24 Sep. 2018 Without a dramatic change in national temperament or constitutional law, American capital punishment appears to be in terminal decline. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Can drug dealers really be executed?," 16 Mar. 2018 Until this afternoon, Kavanaugh had struck, many who watched him, as bookish and academic, the classic temperament of a federal judge. Fox News, "Brit Hume on fallout from Kavanaugh hearing; Alan Dershowitz on Rachel Mitchell's performance," 28 Sep. 2018 Lesser known, however, is that there also exist two additional categories — Uncles and Nephews — that together explain the temperament of any man. Bijan Stephen, The Verge, "Toward a taxonomy of men online," 14 Aug. 2018 But voters who watched the forum got to see the different temperaments of the candidates. Luke Broadwater, baltimoresun.com, "6 takeaways from Maryland governor's race forum on the environment," 20 Apr. 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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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 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).


to affect and impair by alcohol or a drug

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