tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər How to pronounce temper (audio) \

Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : heat of mind or emotion : proneness to anger : passion she has a real temper
b : calmness of mind : composure
c : state of feeling or frame of mind at a particular time usually dominated by a single strong emotion
d : a characteristic cast of mind or state of feeling : disposition
2a : characteristic tone : trend the temper of the times
b : high quality of mind or spirit : courage
c archaic : a suitable proportion or balance of qualities : a middle state between extremes : mean, medium virtue is … a just temper between propensities— T. B. Macaulay
d archaic : character, quality the temper of the land you design to sow— John Mortimer
3a : the state of a substance with respect to certain desired qualities (such as hardness, elasticity, or workability) especially : the degree of hardness or resiliency given steel by tempering
b : the feel and relative solidity of leather
4 : a substance (such as a metal) added to or mixed with something else (such as another metal) to modify the properties of the latter


tempered; tempering\ ˈtem-​p(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce tempering (audio) \

Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to dilute, qualify, or soften by the addition or influence of something else : moderate temper justice with mercy
2a : to anneal or toughen (glass) by a process of gradually heating and cooling
b(1) : to harden (a material, such as steel) by reheating and cooling in oil
(2) : to soften (a material, such as hardened steel or cast iron) by reheating at a lower temperature
3 : to make stronger and more resilient through hardship : toughen troops tempered in battle
4 : to bring to a suitable state by mixing in or adding a usually liquid ingredient: such as
a : to mix (clay) with water or a modifier (such as grog) and knead to a uniform texture
b : to mix oil with (colors) in making paint ready for use
5a : to put in tune with something : attune
b : to adjust the pitch of (a note, chord, or instrument) to a temperament
6 archaic
a : to exercise control over : govern, restrain
b : to cause to be well disposed : mollify tempered and reconciled them both— Richard Steele

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Other Words from temper


temperable \ ˈtem-​p(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce temperable (audio) \ adjective
temperer \ ˈtem-​pər-​ər How to pronounce temperer (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for temper


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

Mix Things Up With the Meaning of Temper

The temper root keeps its basic meaning—"to mix" or "to keep within limits"—in the English word temper. When you temper something, you mix it with some balancing quality or substance so as to avoid anything extreme. Thus, it's often said that a judge must temper justice with mercy. Young people only gradually learn to temper their natural enthusiasms with caution. And in dealing with others, we all try to temper our honesty with sensitivity.

Examples of temper in a Sentence

Noun She has a bad temper. That boy has quite a temper. He needs to learn to control his temper. She hit him in a fit of temper. He slammed the door and left in a temper. It's often difficult for parents not to lose their tempers. He is in a pleasant temper. Verb The steel must be properly tempered.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Late in the second set, Djokovic was visibly flustered and lost his temper at the chair umpire after a pair of time violations. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "Novak Djokovic Wins Australian Open, His 17th Grand Slam Title," 2 Feb. 2020 If a guy loses his temper, he’s seen as being strong. Los Angeles Times, "Natalie Portman on what critics are getting wrong about ‘Lucy in the Sky’," 27 Sep. 2019 Warren has slipped, and tempers have flared between the two leading progressives in recent days. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Democrats’ final debate before Iowa and the impeachment trial is last chance to make big splash," 14 Jan. 2020 The couple raised eyebrows in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as Tusup was seen losing his temper in the stands during Hosszu's races. Jenna West, SI.com, "Olympic Swimmer Katinka Hosszu and Hubsand-Coach Announce Split," 24 May 2018 Texans coach Bill O'Brien lost his temper and directed several expletives at a heckler while heading into the tunnel to the locker room during a December loss to the Denver Broncos at NRG Stadium. Aaron Wilson, Houston Chronicle, "'Screw you': Texans' Bill O'Brien hurls expletive-filled insults at heckler in video," 10 Jan. 2020 Two weeks later, Garrett lost his temper at the end of a Thursday night victory over the Steelers, clobbering Rudolph over the head with the QB’s helmet. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland, "Freddie Kitchens is one-and-done, fired by the Browns after his 6-10 season: We ‘didn’t see opportunities for improvement’," 29 Dec. 2019 Yankees’ Brett Gardner acting like a child, pounding his bat in the dugout Gardner was just a big kid having temper tantrums in the Bronx for the Yankees. Jeff Bailey, The Denver Post, "Festivus 2019: The airing of grievances, sports edition," 23 Dec. 2019 But not this narcissistic condescending temper tantrum throwing know it all. Joseph Gerth, The Courier-Journal, "By pardoning rapists and killers, former governor Matt Bevin showed us who he really is," 13 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb His suggestion that the free movement of labor in the global economy be tempered by restrictions on new arrivals’ eligibility for welfare benefits may be the least-bad option for open-borders economists and immigration restrictionists. Joseph C. Sternberg, WSJ, "‘Capitalism, Alone’ Review: Inclined Toward Inequality," 20 Jan. 2020 Porgy and Bess—set amid a fictional African-American tenement in Charleston, South Carolina, where love and friendship are tempered by addiction and violence—has long occupied a complex space on the American cultural landscape. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "After a 30 Year Absence, the Controversial ‘Porgy and Bess’ Is Returning to the Met Opera," 23 Sep. 2019 Rage at the depredations of criminals was tempered by empathy for defendants charged with [a] crime: one hesitates before sending neighbors’ sons to the state penitentiary. Andrew Cockburn, Harper's magazine, "Power of Attorney," 16 Sep. 2019 As might be expected, the Internet was less than amused with this joke, especially since it couldn’t be tempered with the soothing qualities of a chicken sandwich. Cady Lang, Time, "The Internet Is Not Amused With Popeye's Joke About Their Chicken Sandwich Shortage," 12 Sep. 2019 But for some Democratic voters, the draw of a younger, less experienced candidate is tempered in 2020 by the risks of losing to Trump, a candidate many in the party view as an existential threat to democracy. San Diego Union-Tribune, "In Buttigieg and Biden, Dems confront generational divide," 14 July 2019 Enthusiasm for a return to democracy is high, but is tempered with an awareness that new election rules handicap the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which has easily won every national election since 2001. Jerry Harmer, The Seattle Times, "Candidates register for 1st Thai general election since coup," 4 Feb. 2019 Just temper your expectation though... Get our daily forecasts on your Amazon Alexa device. Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Starting a little stretch of spring; stormier pattern by midweek," 2 Feb. 2020 That will always temper whatever happens this season. New York Times, "The Good, the Bad and the Bizarre for the Knicks and the Nets," 24 Jan. 2020

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2c


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for temper


Middle English tempure, tempyr, temper "moderation, mixture of things in proper proportion, mental state," probably noun derivative of tempren, temperen "to mix with, soften, moderate" — more at temper entry 2


Middle English tempren, temperen "to be mixed with, mix with, soften, moderate, regulate, tune," in part going back to Old English temprian "to mix with, moderate," borrowed from Latin temperāre "to exercise moderation, restrain oneself, moderate, bring to a proper strength or consistency by mixing, maintain in a state of balance," perhaps derivative of temper-, variant stem of tempor-, tempus "period of time"; in part borrowed from Anglo-French temprer, tremper, going back to Latin temperāre — more at tempo

Note: The derivation of temperāre from temper- and hence tempus is based on the hypothesis that the original meaning of the noun was "extent, measure"; however, it is not entirely certain that the meanings "to restrain" or "to bring to a suitable state by mixing" (whichever might be the original meaning of temperāre) are consonant with the idea of measuring.

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Learn More about temper

Time Traveler for temper

Time Traveler

The first known use of temper was before the 12th century

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Statistics for temper

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Temper.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/temper. Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for temper


How to pronounce temper (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the tendency of someone to become angry
: a state of being angry
: calmness of mind



English Language Learners Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

formal : to make (something) less severe or extreme
technical : to cause (something, such as steel or glass) to become hard or strong by heating it and cooling it


tem·​per | \ ˈtem-pər How to pronounce temper (audio) \

Kids Definition of temper

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : characteristic state of feeling She has a very even temper.
2 : calmness of mind I lost my temper.
3 : a tendency to become angry Try to control your temper.
5 : the hardness or toughness of a substance (as metal)


tempered; tempering

Kids Definition of temper (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to make less severe or extreme : soften Mountains temper the wind.
2 : to heat and cool a substance (as steel) until it is as hard, tough, or flexible as is wanted

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More from Merriam-Webster on temper

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for temper

Spanish Central: Translation of temper

Nglish: Translation of temper for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of temper for Arabic Speakers

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