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From Middle English temperen, tempren, from Old English ġetemprian, temprian, borrowed from Latin temperare (to divide or proportion duly, mingle in due proportion, qualify, temper, regulate, rule, intransitive observe measure, be moderate or temperate), from tempus (time, fit season). Compare also French tempérer. Doublet of tamper. See temporal.



temper (countable and uncountable, plural tempers)

  1. A tendency to be of a certain type of mood.
    to have a good, bad, calm, or hasty temper
    He has quite a (bad) temper when dealing with salespeople.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 8, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      Afore we got to the shanty Colonel Applegate stuck his head out of the door. His temper had been getting raggeder all the time, and the sousing he got when he fell overboard had just about ripped what was left of it to ravellings.
  2. State of mind.
    • 1719- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      [] I must testify, from my experience, that a temper of peace, thankfulness, love, and affection, is much the more proper frame for prayer than that of terror and discomposure []
  3. The state of any compound substance which results from the mixture of various ingredients; due mixture of different qualities.
    the temper of mortar
  4. (obsolete) Constitution of body; the mixture or relative proportion of the four humours: blood, choler, phlegm, and melancholy.
    • Fuller
      The exquisiteness of his [Christ's] bodily temper increased the exquisiteness of his torment.
  5. The heat treatment to which a metal or other material has been subjected; a material that has undergone a particular heat treatment.
  6. Calmness of mind; moderation; equanimity; composure.
    to keep one's temper
    • Alexander Pope
      To fall with dignity, with temper rise.
    • Ben Jonson
      Restore yourselves to your tempers, fathers.
  7. 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
  8. Middle state or course; mean; medium.
    • Macaulay
      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.
  9. (sugar manufacture, historical) Milk of lime, or other substance, employed in the process formerly used to clarify sugar.


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temper (third-person singular simple present tempers, present participle tempering, simple 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.
    • Dryden
      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.
    • Spenser
      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.
    • Bancroft
      Puritan austerity was so tempered by Dutch indifference, that mercy itself could not have dictated a milder system.
    • Otway
      Woman! lovely woman! nature made thee / To temper man: we had been brutes without you.
    • Byron
      But thy fire / Shall be more tempered, and thy hope far higher.
    • Addison
      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.
    • Bible, Wisdom xvi. 21
      Thy sustenance [] serving to the appetite of the eater, tempered itself to every man's liking.


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