See more synonyms for tempera on Thesaurus.com
  1. a technique of painting in which an emulsion consisting of water and pure egg yolk or a mixture of egg and oil is used as a binder or medium, characterized by its lean film-forming properties and rapid drying rate.
  2. a painting executed in this technique.
  3. a water paint used in this technique in which the egg-water or egg-oil emulsion is used as a binder.Compare distemper2(defs 1, 2).

Origin of tempera

1825–35; < Italian, short for (pingere a) tempera (painting in) distemper, derivative of temperare to mingle, temper; see temper
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tempera

Historical Examples of tempera

  • The colours Pg 175 are known in the trade as tempera colours.

  • When not painting fresco he is constant to the use of tempera.


    Evelyn March Phillipps

  • First there are the tempera pictures, or “frescoes,” as he termed them.

    William Blake

    Irene Langridge

  • “Bianca” was painted in tempera from a beautiful young American.

    Holman Hunt

    Mary E. Coleridge

  • He painted in tempera and finished his work with care and deliberation.

    Artists Past and Present

    Elisabeth Luther Cary

British Dictionary definitions for tempera


  1. a painting medium for powdered pigments, consisting usually of egg yolk and water
    1. any emulsion used as a painting medium, with casein, glue, wax, etc, as a base
    2. the paint made from mixing this with pigment
  2. the technique of painting with tempera

Word Origin for tempera

C19: from Italian phrase pingere a tempera painting in tempera, from temperare to mingle; see temper
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

Word Origin and History for tempera

1832, from Italian tempera (in phrase pingere a tempera), from temperare "to mix colors, temper," from Latin temperare "to mix" (see temper (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper