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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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 law’s original goal was to allow residents to go around local prosecutors who did not charge saloonkeepers for flouting temperance laws. Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2021 That’s because although Canada had enacted its own prohibition before the US, its temperance laws still allowed for the manufacture and export of alcohol. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 31 Oct. 2021 Her default mode is an inviting temperance, in sorrow as well as in the previous album’s joy. Chris Willman, Variety, 10 Sep. 2021 The once heavy-drinking Tsar Nicholas II had increasingly been won to the temperance cause. Mark Lawrence Schrad, Time, 20 July 2021 Members of the royal family—including the tsar’s rather bohemian favorite uncle, the aforementioned Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich Romanov—began patronizing temperance. Mark Lawrence Schrad, Time, 20 July 2021 Absinthe was also one of the only spirits to have been specifically banned by governments in the early 1900s, thanks to its rise in popularity during a time when temperance movements were taking hold in Europe and the United States. John Debary, Bon Appétit, 23 Apr. 2021 In terms of Russian history, however, the consequences of that decade of temperance are impossible to ignore. Mark Lawrence Schrad, Time, 20 July 2021 Frank's, a non-alcoholic speakeasy that's designed to educate guests about Tennessee's role in the women's suffrage movement and temperance movement. Elizabeth Rhodes, Travel + Leisure, 11 July 2021

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

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Cite this Entry

“Temperance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temperance. Accessed 24 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for temperance



English Language Learners Definition of temperance

: the practice of drinking little or no alcohol
: 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

Nglish: Translation of temperance for Spanish Speakers


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