• (British) IPA: /dɪsˈtɛmpə(ɹ)/


  1. (veterinary medicine, pathology) A viral disease of animals, such as dogs and cats, characterised by fever, coughing and catarrh.
  2. (archaic) A disorder of the humours of the body; a disease.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, London: W. Taylor, 3rd edition, p. 105,
      […] my spirits began to sink under the Burden of a strong Distemper, and Nature was exhausted with the Violence of the Fever […]
  3. A glue-based paint.
  4. A painting produced with this kind of paint.
  • German: Staupe
  • Italian: cimurro
  • Russian: чу́мка
  • Italian: tempera
  • Russian: те́мпера

distemper (distempers, present participle distempering; past and past participle distempered)

  1. To temper or mix unduly; to make disproportionate; to change the due proportions of.
    • 1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Parsons Tale”, in The Canterbury Tales, [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], OCLC 230972125 ↗; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, […], [London]: Printed by [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes […], 1542, OCLC 932884868 ↗, “Sequitur de Gula” ↗, column 2:
      This ſynne hath manie ſpeces: […] The fourth is, whan through the greate abundaunce of hys meete, the humours in hys body ben diſtempred.
      This sin [gluttony] has many species: […] The fourth is, when through the great abundance of his meat, the humours in his body be distempered.
  2. To derange the functions of, whether bodily, mental, or spiritual; to disorder; to disease.
    • c. 1600, William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2,
      Guildenstern. The King, sir—
      Hamlet. Ay, sir, what of him?
      Guildenstern. Is in his retirement, marvellous distemper’d.
      Hamlet. With drink, sir?
      Guildenstern. No, my lord; rather with choler.
    • 1814, Joseph Stevens Buckminster, Sermons, Boston: John Eliot, Sermon XVI, p. 267,
      The imagination, when completely distempered, is the most incurable of all disordered faculties.
    • 1924, Herman Melville, Billy Budd, London: Constable & Co., Chapter 3,
      To some extent the Nore Mutiny may be regarded as analogous to the distempering irruption of contagious fever in a frame constitutionally sound, and which anon throws it off.
  3. To deprive of temper or moderation; to disturb; to ruffle; to make disaffected, ill-humoured, or malignant.
    • 1799-1800, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (translator), The Piccolomini by Friedrich Schiller, Boston: Francis A. Niccolls & Co., 1902, p. 37,
      I have been long accustomed to defend you,
      To heal and pacify distempered spirits.
  4. To intoxicate.
    • 1623, Philip Massinger, The Duke of Milan, Act I, Scene 1,
      For the Courtiers reeling,
      And the Duke himselfe, (I dare not say distemperd,
      But kind, and in his tottering chaire carousing)
      They doe the countrie service.
  5. To paint using distemper.
  6. To mix (colours) in the way of distemper.
    to distemper colors with size