• (British) IPA: /ˈtɛmpə/
  • (America) IPA: /ˈtɛmpɚ/


  1. A tendency to be in a certain type of mood; a habitual way of thinking, behaving or reacting.
    to have a good, bad, or calm temper
    • circa 1596 William Shakespeare, King John (play), Act V, Scene 2,
      A noble temper dost thou show in this;
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Dublin: John Smith, Book 4, Chapter 2, p. 141,
      […] when she smiled, the Sweetness of her Temper diffused that Glory over her Countenance, which no Regularity of Features can give.
    • 1814, Jane Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapter 4,
      I am of a cautious temper, and unwilling to risk my happiness in a hurry.
    • 1868, Louisa May Alcott, Little Women, Chapter 26,
      […] Amy smiled without bitterness, for she possessed a happy temper and hopeful spirit.
    • 1928, Virginia Woolf, Orlando (novel), Penguin, 1942, Chapter 2, p. 48,
      […] it appeared as if to be alone in the great house of his fathers suited his temper.
  2. State of mind; mood.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 9, lines 1046-1048,
      Remember with what mild
      And gracious temper he both heard and judg’d
      Without wrauth or reviling;
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe, London: W. Taylor, p. 193,
      […] I must testify from my Experience, that a Temper of Peace, Thankfulness, Love and Affection, is much more the proper Frame for Prayer than that of Terror and Discomposure;
    • 1818, Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Volume 3, Chapter 5,
      […] her temper was fluctuating; joy for a few instants shone in her eyes, but it continually gave place to distraction and reverie.
    • 1850, Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, Chapter 29,
      ‘You should be careful not to irritate her, James. Her temper has been soured, remember, and ought not to be tried.’
    • 1950, Nevil Shute, A Town Like Alice, London: Heinemann, 1952, Chapter 3, p. 94,
      She bowed to him, to put him in a good temper.
  3. A tendency to become angry.
    to have a hasty temper
    He has quite a temper when dealing with salespeople.
    • 1909, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea, Chapter 3,
      “I guess you’ve got a spice of temper,” commented Mr. Harrison, surveying the flushed cheeks and indignant eyes opposite him.
    • 1958, Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana, Penguin, 1969, Chapter 5,
      ‘What a temper you’ve got, Wormold.’
      ‘I’m sorry. Drink takes me that way.’
    • 2013, J. M. Coetzee, The Childhood of Jesus, London: Harvill Secker, Chapter 28, p. 251,
      His criticism of Inés makes him bristle. Nonetheless, he holds his temper in check.
  4. Anger; a fit of anger.
    an outburst of temper
    • 1919, Henry Blake Fuller, Bertram Cope's Year, Chapter 28,
      Hortense remained for several days in a condition of sullen anger—she was a cloud lit up by occasional unaccountable flashes of temper.
    • 1953, C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair, London: Geoffrey Bles, 1965, Chapter 1,
      Jill suddenly flew into a temper (which is quite a likely thing to happen if you have been interrupted in a cry).
    • 1999, Colm Tóibín, The Blackwater Lightship, New York: Scribner, Chapter 4, p. 110,
      […] she banged the door as she left as though in temper and walked to her car.
  5. Calmness of mind; moderation; equanimity; composure.
    to keep one's temper; to lose one's temper; to recover one's temper
    • 1611, Ben Jonson, Catiline His Conspiracy, London: Walter Burre, Act IV,
      Restore your selues, vnto your temper, Fathers;
      And, without perturbation, heare me speake:
    • 1734, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Man. […], epistle IV, London: Printed for J[ohn] Wilford, […], OCLC 960856019 ↗, lines 372–373, page 79 ↗:
      Teach me like thee, in various Nature wiſe, / To fall with Dignity, with Temper riſe; [...]
    • 1819, Walter Scott, The Bride of Lammermoor, Chapter 22,
      “And I think, madam,” said the Lord Keeper, losing his accustomed temper and patience, “that if you had nothing better to tell us, you had better have kept this family secret to yourself also.”
    • 1857, Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, Chapter 19,
      […] her temper was rarely ruffled, and, if we might judge by her appearance, she was always happy.
  6. (obsolete) Constitution of body; the mixture or relative proportion of the four humours: blood, choler, phlegm, and melancholy.
    • 1650, Thomas Fuller, A Pisgah-Sight of Palestine and the Confines Thereof, London: John Williams, Book 3, Chapter 12, p. 345,
      […] it is hard to say, whether [Christ’s] pain was more shamefull, or his shame more painfull unto him: the exquisiteness of his bodily temper, increasing the exquisiteness of his torment, and the ingenuity of his Soul, adding to his sensibleness of the indignities and affronts offered until him.
  7. Middle state or course; mean; medium.
    • 1848, Thomas Babington Macaulay, The History of England from the Accession of James the Second, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1849, Volume 3, Chapter 11, p. 86,
      The perfect lawgiver is a just temper between the mere man of theory, who can see nothing but general principles, and the mere man of business, who can see nothing but particular circumstances.
  8. The state of any compound substance which results from the mixture of various ingredients; due mixture of different qualities.
    the temper of mortar
  9. The heat treatment to which a metal or other material has been subjected; a material that has undergone a particular heat treatment.
  10. The state of a metal or other substance, especially as to its hardness, produced by some process of heating or cooling.
    the temper of iron or steel
    • circa 1591 William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 1, Act II, Scene 4,
      Between two blades, which bears the better temper: […]
      I have perhaps some shallow spirit of judgement;
      But in these nice sharp quillets of the law,
      Good faith, I am no wiser than a daw.
  11. (sugar manufacture, historical) Milk of lime, or other substance, employed in the process formerly used to clarify sugar.
    • 1803, John Browne Cutting, “A Succinct History of Jamaica” in Robert Charles Dallas, The History of the Maroons, London: Longman and Rees, Volume 1, pp. xciv-xcv,
      All cane juice is liable to rapid fermentation. As soon, therefore, as the clarifier is filled, the fire is lighted, and the temper (white lime of Bristol) is stirred into it. The alkali of the lime having neutralized its superabundant acid, a part of it becomes the basis of the sugar.
Synonyms Related terms Translations Translations Translations Verb

temper (tempers, present participle tempering; past and past participle tempered)

  1. To moderate or control.
    Temper your language around children.
  2. To strengthen or toughen a material, especially metal, by heat treatment; anneal.
    Tempering is a heat treatment technique applied to metals, alloys, and glass to achieve greater toughness by increasing the strength of materials and/or ductility. Tempering is performed by a controlled reheating of the work piece to a temperature below its lower eutectic critical temperature.
    • The tempered metals clash, and yield a silver sound.
  3. To sauté spices in ghee or oil to release essential oils for flavouring a dish in South Asian cuisine.
  4. To mix clay, plaster or mortar with water to obtain the proper consistency.
  5. (music) To adjust, as the mathematical scale to the actual scale, or to that in actual use.
  6. (obsolete, Latinism) To govern; to manage.
    • 1591, Edmund Spenser, Mother Hubberd's Tale
      With which the damned ghosts he governeth, / And furies rules, and Tartare tempereth.
  7. (archaic) To combine in due proportions; to constitute; to compose.
    • 1610, The Tempest, by Shakespeare, act 3 scene 3
      You fools! I and my fellows
      Are ministers of fate: the elements
      Of whom your swords are temper'd may as well
      Wound the loud winds, or with bemock'd-at stabs
      Kill the still-closing waters, as diminish
      One dowle that's in my plume; […]
  8. (archaic) To mingle in due proportion; to prepare by combining; to modify, as by adding some new element; to qualify, as by an ingredient; hence, to soften; to mollify; to assuage.
    • 1839', George Bancroft, History of the United States of America Volume 2
      Puritan austerity was so tempered by Dutch indifference, that mercy itself could not have dictated a milder system.
    • 1682 (first performance), Thomas Otway, ''Venice Preserv'd
      Woman! lovely woman! nature made thee / To temper man: we had been brutes without you.
    • 1812-1818, Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
      But thy fire / Shall be more tempered, and thy hope far higher.
    • 1709, Joseph Addison, The Tatler No. 100
      She [the Goddess of Justice] threw darkness and clouds about her, that tempered the light into a thousand beautiful shades and colours.
  9. (obsolete) To fit together; to adjust; to accommodate.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, […] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, […], OCLC 964384981 ↗, Wisdom of Solomon 16:21 ↗:
      Thy sustenance […] serving to the appetite of the eater, tempered itself to every man's liking.
Translations Translations
  • French: recuire
  • Portuguese: temperar
  • Russian: закаля́ть
  • Spanish: templar

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