[ tan-truhm ]
/ ˈtæn trəm /
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a violent demonstration of rage or frustration; a sudden burst of ill temper.
verb (used without object)
to have a tantrum: Don't give in to your grandson every time he tantrums.
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Origin of tantrum

First recorded in 1740–50; origin uncertain
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021


What does tantrum mean?

A tantrum is an angry outburst by someone who has lost their temper in reaction to something they didn’t want to happen. The term temper tantrum means the same thing.

Tantrums are often loud and they can be violent. A child kicking and screaming in response to being told to turn off the TV is having a tantrum.

The term is often used to refer to an outburst by a young child, especially a toddler. But it can also be used to refer to an outburst by an adult. When used this way, it’s intended to criticize the person for being unreasonable and acting like a child.

Tantrum is often used with the verb throw, as in My son threw a tantrum right in the middle of the store.

Less commonly, tantrum can be used as a verb meaning to throw a tantrum, as in She tantrums when she doesn’t get a treat. 

Example: I work in customer service, so I’m used to dealing with tantrums from people who don’t get their way.

Where does tantrum come from?

The first records of the word tantrum come from the 1700s, but its ultimate origin is uncertain.

If you’ve ever seen a toddler erupt in screams of rage and start stomping and rolling around over not getting something they wanted, you’ve witnessed a tantrum. Young children are still learning how to manage their emotions, so it’s common for them to have occasional temper tantrums, even over things that don’t seem like a big deal. When an adult throws a tantrum, it may not involve literal yelling and screaming—an angry social media post in ALL CAPS over some minor problem might be called a tantrum. Saying that an adult is throwing a tantrum is always intended to be a criticism of that person.

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What are some synonyms for tantrum?

What are some words that often get used in discussing tantrum?

How is tantrum used in real life?

Children sometimes throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want. When the term is applied to an outburst by an adult, it’s used in a critical way that’s intended to imply that that person is acting like a child.



Try using tantrum!

Is tantrum used correctly in the following sentence?

I just saw a customer throw a tantrum at the server because the restaurant was out of ketchup.

How to use tantrum in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for tantrum

/ (ˈtæntrəm) /

(often plural) a childish fit of rage; outburst of bad temper

Word Origin for tantrum

C18: of unknown origin
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

Medical definitions for tantrum

[ tăntrəm ]

A fit of bad temper.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.