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

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 Some tools, for example, can listen in on interviews and summarize key themes, while others use games to try to gauge someone’s skills or temperament. Richard Vanderford, WSJ, 12 May 2022 However, the inspector general's report found that Walsh did not have the managerial skills, leadership capacity, or temperament for his leadership role at the facility. Arielle Mitropoulos, ABC News, 12 May 2022 Wahlberg and Gibson’s innocent vs. haggard faces surprisingly reflect each other’s temperament. Armond White, National Review, 20 Apr. 2022 With regard to the volatile side of Mingus, McPherson was spared the fearsome temperament that led to Mingus being thought of as the Angry Man of Jazz. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 16 Apr. 2022 Trottier and his pal Bossy were friends, so different in style and temperament, complementing each other marvelously. New York Times, 15 Apr. 2022 Clive’s warmth, sincerity and even temperament skillfully, strategically and respectfully resolved an intricate scenario with a precision that blew my mind. Jem Aswad, Variety, 7 Apr. 2022 The big-picture question that president of basketball operations Brad Stevens must answer to in the playoffs is whether his team has the right mix and temperament to win a title. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 31 Mar. 2022 The dogs are in demand largely because of their versatility and easygoing temperament, according to the AKC. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 20 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

28 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Temperament.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temperament. Accessed 28 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for temperament


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

More from Merriam-Webster on temperament

Nglish: Translation of temperament for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of temperament for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about temperament


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