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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).
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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

Related Words

varnish, oil, enamel, color, makeup, cosmetic, pigment, wax, dye, stain, latex, acrylic, flat, coloring, overlay, rouge, gloss, veneer, chroma, greasepaint

Examples from the Web for tempera

Historical Examples

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

    Three Hundred Things a Bright Boy Can Do


  • 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
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Word Origin

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.)).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper