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

These last 12 years of failure in the major competitions have, more than anything, been a failure of temperament. Jonathan Wilson, SI.com, "Brazil Shows Character, Quality in Winning Copa America, Restoring Faith," 7 July 2019 That honor is reserved for larger, flightless bugs of docile temperament. Steve Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Hold a giant cockroach (if you want) in new ‘Fantastic Bug Encounters!’ at the Field Museum," 26 June 2019 The striker is known for having a bad temperament, highlighted by his most recent incident with Galatasaray reserve goalkeeper Ismail Cipe - where they were both involved in an aggressive touchline fracas as tensions boiled over. SI.com, "Emmanuel Adebayor Linked With Shock Premier League Return as West Ham & Watford Show Interest," 22 June 2019 As a consequence, there has been a little less talk about the matters that have often dominated Presidential politics, or at least coverage of Presidential politics—character, temperament, and personal history. Osita Nwanevu, The New Yorker, "Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Two Paths for the American Left," 18 June 2019 Additionally, the county runs an open admission shelter, meaning all animals are accepted from county service areas, regardless of temperament and condition. Anne Gelhaus, The Mercury News, "Milpitas community briefs for the week of June 7," 7 June 2019 In fact, stress in a dog appears to be more closely linked to the stress of its owner than it to the dog’s own temperament. Melissa Healy, latimes.com, "Coming home stressed? Your dog is internalizing those bad vibes too, study suggests," 6 June 2019 Judge Weinstein, who has sat in Federal District Court in Brooklyn for more than 50 years, has long been known for his progressive leanings and iconoclastic temperament. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Brooklyn Judge Vows Not to Send People Back to Prison for Smoking Marijuana," 5 July 2018 Second, this phenomenon can be viewed through the lens of cross-cultural differences in personality or temperament. Samuel Putnam, Washington Post, "Russians don’t smile much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you," 30 June 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, "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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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).


an act or instance of editing or removing

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