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[tem-per] /ˈtɛm pər/
a particular state of mind or feelings.
habit of mind, especially with respect to irritability or patience, outbursts of anger, or the like; disposition:
an even temper.
heat of mind or passion, shown in outbursts of anger, resentment, etc.
calm disposition or state of mind:
to be out of temper.
a substance added to something to modify its properties or qualities.
  1. the degree of hardness and strength imparted to a metal, as by quenching, heat treatment, or cold working.
  2. the percentage of carbon in tool steel.
  3. the operation of tempering.
Archaic. a middle course; compromise.
Obsolete. the constitution or character of a substance.
verb (used with object)
to moderate or mitigate:
to temper justice with mercy.
to soften or tone down.
to bring to a proper, suitable, or desirable state by or as by blending or admixture.
to moisten, mix, and work up into proper consistency, as clay or mortar.
Metallurgy. to impart strength or toughness to (steel or cast iron) by heating and cooling.
to produce internal stresses in (glass) by sudden cooling from low red heat; toughen.
to tune (a keyboard instrument, as a piano, organ, or harpsichord) so as to make the tones available in different keys or tonalities.
to modify (color) by mixing with a medium.
Archaic. to combine or blend in due proportions.
Archaic. to pacify.
verb (used without object)
to be or become tempered.
Origin of temper
before 1000; (v.) Middle English tempren, Old English temprian < Latin temperāre to divide or proportion duly, temper; (noun) Middle English: proportion, derivative of the v.
Related forms
temperable, adjective
temperability, noun
temperer, noun
nontemperable, adjective
retemper, verb (used with object)
untemperable, adjective
untempering, adjective
1. nature, condition. 2. humor. 3. irritation. 4. equanimity, coolness, composure.
Synonym Study
1. See disposition. 10. See modify. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for temper
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She is to be pitied—she cannot either like or dislike with temper!

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • We all, indeed, once thought your temper soft and amiable: but why was it?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9) Samuel Richardson
  • "Never mind, brother," replied the good Deacon, recovering his temper.

    Other Tales and Sketches Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • If she was in a good temper, she was in a good temper; if she was in a bad temper, why there she was, she and her temper!

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
  • It was no wonder, especially when he saw who the singer was, that he should lose his temper.

    Weighed and Wanting George MacDonald
British Dictionary definitions for temper


a frame of mind; mood or humour: a good temper
a sudden outburst of anger; tantrum
a tendency to exhibit uncontrolled anger; irritability
a mental condition of moderation and calm (esp in the phrases keep one's temper, lose one's temper, out of temper)
the degree of hardness, elasticity, or a similar property of a metal or metal object
verb (transitive)
to make more temperate, acceptable, or suitable by adding something else; moderate: he tempered his criticism with kindly sympathy
to strengthen or toughen (a metal or metal article) by heat treatment, as by heating and quenching
  1. to adjust the frequency differences between the notes of a scale on (a keyboard instrument) in order to allow modulation into other keys
  2. to make such an adjustment to the pitches of notes in (a scale)
a rare word for adapt
an archaic word for mix
Derived Forms
temperable, adjective
temperability, noun
temperer, noun
Word Origin
Old English temprian to mingle, (influenced by Old French temprer), from Latin temperāre to mix, probably from tempus time
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for temper

late Old English temprian "to bring to a proper or suitable state, to modify some excessive quality, to restrain within due limits," from Latin temperare "to mix correctly, moderate, regulate, blend," usually described as from tempus "time, season" (see temporal), with a sense of "proper time or season," but the sense history is obscure. Meaning "to make (steel) hard and elastic" is from late 14c. Sense of "to tune the pitch of a musical instrument" is recorded from c.1300. Related: Tempered; tempering.


late 14c., "due proportion of elements or qualities," from temper (v.). The sense of "characteristic state of mind" is first recorded 1590s; that of "calm state of mind" in c.1600; and that of "angry state of mind" (for bad temper) in 1828. Meaning "degree of hardness and resiliency in steel" is from late 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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temper in Medicine

temper tem·per (těm'pər)

  1. A state of mind or emotions; mood.

  2. A tendency to become easily angry or irritable.

  3. An outburst of rage.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Idioms and Phrases with temper
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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