tem·​per·​ance | \ ˈtem-p(ə-)rən(t)s How to pronounce temperance (audio) , -pərn(t)s\

Definition of temperance

1 : moderation in action, thought, or feeling : restraint
2a : habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions
b : moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages

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Did You Know?

Since temperance means basically "moderation", you might assume that, with respect to alcohol, temperance would mean moderate consumption, or "social drinking". Instead, the word has usually meant the prohibition of all alcohol. To temperance leaders such as Carry Nation, the safest form of drinking was no alcohol at all. Believing she was upholding the law, Nation began her hatchet-swinging attacks on saloons, known as "hatchetations", in the 1890s. National prohibition did eventually come—and go—but largely through the efforts of more temperate (that is, moderate) reformers.

Examples of temperance in a Sentence

The minister preached about temperance. my father attributes his ripe old age to temperance in all things, especially eating and drinking

Recent Examples on the Web

Starting in the 1830s, white Americans began forming their own mutual aid groups as part of the temperance movement. Livia Gershon, Longreads, "Peers in Healing," 10 June 2019 Courage, temperance, justice, and intellectual contemplation can be found without an appeal to theistic revelation. Sahil Handa, National Review, "Seeking a Way Out of Our Modern Malaise," 4 June 2019 That loss energized progressives, who worked to pass a constitutional amendment to allow an income tax, building a coalition with agrarian populists and with temperance advocates who wanted to reduce federal reliance on alcohol taxes. Richard Rubin, WSJ, "Democrats Take Aim at the Reagan Tax Revolution," 15 Feb. 2019 Zero-to-60 mph acceleration is 8.1 seconds, a flaming catapult of temperance. Dan Neil, WSJ, "Lexus ES 300h: Spend on the Luxury, Save on Gas Money," 24 Jan. 2019 Those Bush values are definable in words such as temperance, self-restraint, plain-speaking, honesty, duty, forbearance, humility, prudence, courage. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "Trump Didn’t Kill the Bush Values," 5 Dec. 2018 If you, for some reason, supported reviving alcohol prohibition in America, there’s basically no way a temperance movement is going to succeed in the 21st century. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "Billionaires are spending their fortunes reshaping America’s schools. It isn’t working.," 30 Oct. 2018 By 1910, when the leafy temperance town of Hollywood merged with its big sister to the east, the enlarged city’s population was over 300,000. Leo Braudy, New York Times, "Los Angeles as the City of Dreams, and Nightmares," 1 June 2018 Stoddard wrote scores of books and pamphlets about temperance and traveled to Europe between 1909 and 1926 to represent the United States in international anti-alcohol congresses. Stephanie Schorow, BostonGlobe.com, "What should marijuana opponents do when their cause fails? A lesson from Prohibition," 23 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'temperance.' 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 temperance

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for temperance

Middle English temperaunce, borrowed from Anglo-French temprance, temperance, borrowed from Latin temperantia "self-control, moderation, restraint," noun derivative from temperant-, temperans, present participle of temperāre "to exercise moderation, restrain oneself" — more at temper entry 2

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Statistics for temperance

Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for temperance

The first known use of temperance was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of temperance

old-fashioned : the practice of drinking little or no alcohol
formal : the practice of always controlling your actions, thoughts, or feelings so that you do not eat or drink too much, become too angry, etc.


tem·​per·​ance | \ ˈtem-pə-rəns How to pronounce temperance (audio) , -prəns\

Kids Definition of temperance

1 : control over actions, thoughts, or feelings
2 : the use of little or no liquor


tem·​per·​ance | \ ˈtem-p(ə-)rən(t)s, -pərn(t)s How to pronounce temperance (audio) \

Medical Definition of temperance

: habitual moderation in the indulgence of the appetites or passions specifically : moderation in or abstinence from the use of alcoholic beverages

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More from Merriam-Webster on temperance

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for temperance

Spanish Central: Translation of temperance

Nglish: Translation of temperance for Spanish Speakers

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to take the place or position of

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