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From Old French tempeste (French: tempête), from Latin tempestas ‎(storm), from tempus ‎(time, weather)



tempest ‎(plural tempests)

  1. A storm, especially one with severe winds.
    • 1714 June 10, [Alexander Pope], The Guardian, volume I, number 78, London: Printed for J[acob] Tonson, at Shakespear's-Head over-against Catherine-street in the Strand, page 332:
      For a Tempeſt. Take Eurus, Zephyr, Auſter and Boreas, and caſt them together in one Verſe. Add to theſe of Rain, Lightning, and of Thunder (the loudeſt you can) quantum ſufficit. Mix your Clouds and Billows well together till they foam, and thicken your Deſcription here and there with a Quickſand. Brew your Tempeſt well in your Head, before you ſet it a blowing.
    • 1781, [Mostyn John Armstrong], History and Antiquities of the County of Norfolk. Volume IX. Containing the Hundreds of Smithdon, Taverham, Tunstead, Walsham, and Wayland, volume IX, Norwich: Printed by J. Crouse, for M. Booth, bookseller, OCLC 520624543, page 51:
      BEAT on, proud billows; Boreas blow; / Swell, curled waves, high as Jove's roof; / Your incivility doth ſhow, / That innocence is tempeſt proof; / Though ſurly Nereus frown, my thoughts are calm; / Then ſtrike, Affliction, for thy wounds are balm. [Attributed to Roger L'Estrange (1616–1704).]
    • 1847, Herman Melville, Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas, ch. 16:
      As every sailor knows, a spicy gale in the tropic latitudes of the Pacific is far different from a tempest in the howling North Atlantic.
    • 1892, James Yoxall, chapter 5, in The Lonely Pyramid:
      The desert storm was riding in its strength; the travellers lay beneath the mastery of the fell simoom. [] Roaring, leaping, pouncing, the tempest raged about the wanderers, drowning and blotting out their forms with sandy spume.
  2. Any violent tumult or commotion.
    • 1914, Ambrose Bierce, "One Officer, One Man":
      They awaited the word "forward"—awaited, too, with beating hearts and set teeth the gusts of lead and iron that were to smite them at their first movement in obedience to that word. The word was not given; the tempest did not break out.
  3. (obsolete) A fashionable social gathering; a drum.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Smollett to this entry?)

Derived terms[edit]



tempest ‎(third-person singular simple present tempests, present participle tempesting, simple past and past participle tempested)

  1. (intransitive, rare) To storm.
  2. (transitive, chiefly poetic) To disturb, as by a tempest.
    • 1667, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book VII:
      . . . the seal
      And bended dolphins play; part huge of bulk,
      Wallowing unwieldy, enormous in their gait,
      Tempest the ocean.
    • 1811, Percy Bysshe Shelley, "The Drowned Lover," in Poems from St. Irvyne:
      Oh! dark lowered the clouds on that horrible eve,
      And the moon dimly gleamed through the tempested air.



Middle English[edit]


Old French tempeste


tempest (plural tempests)

  1. tempest (storm)