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 One group was that of first-wave feminists, who ranged from organizers of temperance unions calling for the prohibition of alcohol to suffragettes who fought for women’s right to vote. William To, azcentral, "Love in the time of loss: ‘Shining Brow’ and the life of Frank Lloyd Wright," 30 Aug. 2019 Yupik and Chukchi people practiced shamanism, and lived in a time that human history was supposed to have surpassed, without literacy, temperance, science, or gender equality. Bathsheba Demuth, The New Yorker, "When the Soviet Union Freed the Arctic from Capitalist Slavery," 15 Aug. 2019 The hall also has hosted events such as temperance meetings, Turkey Days, voting polls, 4-H meetings, Miss Ramona contests, political meetings, community theater, silent film festivals and Town Hall Days. Ramona Sentinel, "Savor Summer Nights in Ramona Town Hall," 19 Aug. 2019 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 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 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 After all, the Methodists were leaders in the temperance movement. Erik Lacitis, The Seattle Times, "‘All indulged’: Puget Sound’s wildest Fourth of July party was its first one — in 1841," 3 July 2018 Romans 13:1 had been quoted on a variety of topics—including capital punishment and temperance—prior to the Civil War. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Imprisoning kids is ... biblical?," 15 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

21 Sep 2019

Time Traveler for temperance

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

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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

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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

Comments on temperance

What made you want to look up temperance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not being in agreement or harmony

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