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 The temperance movement gained strength, and by 1850, half the population had stopped drinking entirely. Karen Martin, Arkansas Online, "The illogic of U.S. liquor laws," 13 Dec. 2020 The cause was championed by the temperance movement, which encouraged and advocated for abstinence from alcohol. Kelly Mccleary And Leah Asmelash, CNN, "On this day in 1933, America ended prohibition," 5 Dec. 2020 Its contents take visitors back to the earliest stirrings of U.S. temperance in the 1850s before zeroing in on the early 1900s when anti-alcohol rallies, most of them fronted by activist women, started their relentless march across the country. Karen Martin, Arkansas Online, "OPINION | KAREN MARTIN: An entertaining and intoxicating museum," 15 Nov. 2020 In 1955 Sweden replaced a rationing system so ineffective that even the temperance movement opposed it with a state monopoly on alcohol sales. The Economist, "A proposal to water down Sweden’s state monopoly on booze," 7 Nov. 2020 In many states, the women’s temperance movement became almost synonymous with women’s suffrage. National Geographic, "Women campaigned for Prohibition—then many changed their minds," 2 Nov. 2020 There have been no signs of temperance by the president on the stump in recent days. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "Last chance for a long ball: Can Trump use the Nashville debate to shake up a race he's losing to Biden?," 22 Oct. 2020 Alcohol flowed freely, and Americans were drinking more per capita than nearly all other nations, which provoked desperate temperance movements. Gordon S. Wood, WSJ, "‘Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times’ Review: Unruly Genius," 25 Sep. 2020 But despite their growing organizational strength, temperance advocates hadn’t yet achieved their goals of major legislative change. Kimberly Hamlin, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Raising the Age of Sexual Consent Taught Women About the Vote," 26 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for temperance

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for temperance

Last Updated

19 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Temperance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temperance. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for temperance


How to pronounce temperance (audio)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on temperance

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for temperance

Nglish: Translation of temperance for Spanish Speakers

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