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

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 Deputy Parker has the perfect temperament — patience and compassion, with a cop's nose for nonsense. Lou Ponsi, latimes.com, "Working with the homeless let him help the most people, retiring sheriff's deputy says," 9 Mar. 2018 Carozza, who worked with Barrett for 15 years, described her as intelligent with a measured temperament. Dan Hinkel, chicagotribune.com, "Potential Trump Supreme Court pick Barrett: Catholic Chicago judge stirs abortion debate," 5 July 2018 Women are far stronger and would be able to run a country with less temperament. Jake Coyle, azcentral, "Christopher Plummer may play a weed dealer, but he's no pothead in real life," 26 June 2018 Women are far stronger and would be able to run a country with less temperament. Washington Post, "Q&A: Christopher Plummer on playing a weed dealer at 88," 15 June 2018 Whereas the Democratic nominee focused on his temperament for much of the general election, party campaigners are now desperate to sharpen that blunt argument as much as possible, and as early as possible before 2020. Gabriel Debenedetti, Daily Intelligencer, "How Should Democrats Tackle Trump in the Midterms? Focus on His Narcissism," 27 June 2018 Media: NowThis News For Canadians — who don’t totally reject their stereotyped image as self-effacing and nice — the eruption seemed completely at odds with their own national temperament. Rob Gillies And David Crary, Houston Chronicle, "Canada-US relations at a low after Trudeau-Trump trade tiff," 17 June 2018 Drug-sniffing dogs typically have a milder temperament, but are trained to protect their handler when necessary. Perry Vandell, azcentral, "ADOT to use K-9 units to detect drugs, human trafficking on major Arizona highways," 7 July 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

17 Oct 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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