• (British) IPA: /ˈtæm.pə(ɹ)/

tamper (plural tampers)

  1. A person or thing that tamps.
  2. A tool used to tamp something down, such as tobacco in a pipe.
  3. (rail) A railway vehicle used to tamp down ballast.
    Synonyms: tamping machine
  4. An envelope of neutron-reflecting material in a nuclear weapon, used to delay the expansion of the reacting material and thus produce a longer-lasting and more energetic explosion.
Translations Translations Verb

tamper (tampers, present participle tampering; past and past participle tampered)

  1. (intransitive) To make unauthorized or improper alterations, sometimes causing deliberate damage; to meddle (with something).
    The alarm had been tampered with and didn’t go off when it should have.
    The election monitors found that a large number of ballots had been tampered with.
    Synonyms: interfere
    • 1640, Joseph Hall (bishop), Christian Moderation, London: Nathaniel Butter, Book 1, § 7, p. 70,
      Our body is as a well-set clock which keeps good time; if it be too much or indiscreetly tamper’d with, the larum runs out before the houre.
    • 1641, John Milton, Of Reformation, Thomas Underhill, p. 25,
      […] of those Books that passe for authentick who knows what hath bin tamper’d withall, what hath bin raz’d out, what hath bin inserted […]
    • 1817, Walter Scott, Rob Roy (novel), Edinburgh: Archibald Constable, 1818, Volume 3, Chapter 7, p. 210,
      […] a small steel pistol was concealed within the purse, the trigger of which was connected with the mounting, and made part of the machinery, so that the weapon would certainly be discharged, and in all probability its contents lodged in the person of any one, who, being unacquainted with the secret, should tamper with the lock which secured its treasure.
    • 1962, Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Chapter 17, p. 297,
      These extraordinary capacities of life have been ignored by the practitioners of chemical control who have brought to their task […] no humility before the vast forces with which they tamper.
  2. (intransitive) To try to influence someone, usually in an illegal or devious way; to try to deal (with someone).
    Prosecutors argued that he would tamper with witnesses if bail was granted.
    • 1651, John Milton, The Life and Reigne of King Charls, London: W. Reybold, p. 217,
      […] no man knowes whether a Wife and a Mother, which had such a latitude of power over the Father and the Sonne, would not be tampering with a Prince (even in the point of Religion) of so tender years as rendred him fit for any impression, and to be indoctrinated with such principles as well concerning Religion, as others best suitable to her own designes.
    • 1740, David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature, London: John Noon, Volume 3, Part 2, Section 5, p. 110,
      […] as these passions and principles are inalterable, it may be thought, that our conduct, which depends on them, must be so too, and that ’twou’d be in vain, either for moralists or politicians, to tamper with us, or attempt to change the usual course of our actions, with a view to public interest.
    • 1803, Robert Charles Dallas, The History of the Maroon (people), London: Longman and Rees, Volume 1, Letter 6, p. 169,
      The Maroons […] had not been tampered with by the French, nor had they themselves, at this time, tampered with the slaves.
    • 1839, Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, London: Chapman and Hall, Chapter 59, p. 584,
      You were talking of tampering, just now. Who tampered with Yorkshire schoolmasters, and, while they sent the drudge out, that he shouldn’t overhear, forgot that such great caution might render him suspicious, and that he might watch his master out at nights, and might set other eyes to watch the schoolmaster? Who tampered with a selfish father, urging him to sell his daughter to old Arthur Gride […]
  3. (dated) To meddle (with something) in order to corrupt or pervert it.
    • 1741, Samuel Richardson, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, London: C. Rivington and J. Osborn, Volume 1, “To my worthy Friend, the Editor of PAMELA,” p. xii,
      […] No Art used to inflame him, no Coquetry practised to tempt or intice him, and no Prudery or Affectation to tamper with his Passions; but, on the contrary, artless and unpractised in the Wiles of the World, all her Endeavours, and even all her Wishes, tended only to render herself as un-amiable as she could in his Eyes:
    • 1790, Ann Radcliffe, A Sicilian Romance, London: T. Hookham, Volume 2, Chapter 11, p. 77,
      She therefore dissuaded Julia from attempting to tamper with the honesty of a servant who had the keys of the vaults […]
    • 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, Chicago: A. C. McClurg, Chapter 10, p. 204,
      Is it not the tendency, born of Reconstruction era and Reaction, to found a society on lawlessness and deception, to tamper with the moral fibre of a naturally honest and straightforward people until the whites threaten to become ungovernable tyrants and the blacks criminals and hypocrites?
  4. (obsolete) To involve oneself (in a plot, scheme, etc.).
    • 1716, Joseph Addison, The Free-holder, No. 31, 6 April, 1716, London: D. Midwinter and J. Tonson, p. 180,
      […] he was beheaded upon the Defeat of the Conspiracy for having but thus far tampered in it.
  5. (obsolete) To attempt to practise or administer something (especially medicine) without sufficient knowledge or qualifications.
    • 1649, Nicholas Culpeper (translator), A Physicall Director, London: Peter Cole, p. 29,
      Certainly it is a scurvy strong troublesom purge, therefore ill to be tamperd with by the unskilful […]
    • 1722, Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, London: E. Nutt et al., p. 36,
      […] Corners of Streets were plaster’d over with Doctors Bills, and Papers of ignorant Fellows; quacking and tampering in Physick, and inviting People to come to them for Remedies;
    • 1753, Robert Shiels, The Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, London: R. Griffiths, Volume 2, “John Milton,” pp. 120-121,
      […] by reason of his continual studies, and the head-ach, to which he was subject from his youth, and his perpetual tampering with physic, his eyes had been decaying for twelve years before.
  6. (in professional sports) To discuss future contracts with a player, against league rules.

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