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Etymology edit

From Middle English temperen, tempren, from Old English ġetemprian, temprian, borrowed from Latin temperō (I divide or proportion duly, I moderate, I regulate; intransitive senses I am moderate, I am temperate), from tempus (time, fit season). Compare also French tempérer. Doublet of tamper. See temporal.

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Noun edit

temper (countable and uncountable, plural tempers)

  1. A general tendency or orientation towards a certain type of mood, a volatile state; a habitual way of thinking, behaving or reacting.
    to have a good, bad, or calm temper
  2. State of mind; mood.
  3. A tendency to become angry.
    to have a hasty temper
    He has quite a temper when dealing with salespeople.
    • 1909, Lucy Maud Montgomery, chapter 3, in Anne of Avonlea[2]:
      “I guess you’ve got a spice of temper,” commented Mr. Harrison, surveying the flushed cheeks and indignant eyes opposite him.
    • 1958, Graham Greene, chapter 5, in Our Man in Havana[3], Penguin, published 1969:
      ‘What a temper you’ve got, Wormold.’
      ‘I’m sorry. Drink takes me that way.’
    • 2013, J. M. Coetzee, chapter 28, in The Childhood of Jesus[4], London: Harvill Secker, page 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, chapter 28, in Bertram Cope’s Year[5]:
      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, chapter 1, in The Silver Chair, London: Geoffrey Bles, published 1965:
      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, chapter 4, in The Blackwater Lightship[6], New York: Scribner, page 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
  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[7], 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.
  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
  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,[8]
      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.

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Verb edit

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.
    • 1963 June, “Second thoughts on Beeching”, in Modern Railways, page 361:
      It is all very well tempering enthusiasm for the Report in most of its particulars, as the thinking press has since the debate, [...].
  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.
    • 1697, Virgil, “Aeneis”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      The temper'd metals clash, and yield a silver sound.
  3. (cooking) To adjust the temperature of an ingredient (e.g. eggs or chocolate) gradually so that it remains smooth and pleasing.
  4. To sauté spices in ghee or oil to release essential oils for flavouring a dish in South Asian cuisine.
  5. To mix clay, plaster or mortar with water to obtain the proper consistency.
  6. (music) To adjust, as the mathematical scale to the actual scale, or to that in actual use.
  7. (obsolete, Latinism) To govern; to manage.
  8. (archaic) To combine in due proportions; to constitute; to compose.
    • 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Tempest”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene iii]:
      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; []
  9. (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.
    • 1834–1874, George Bancroft, History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent:
      , 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, “(please specify |canto=I to IV)”, in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. A Romaunt, London: Printed for John Murray, []; William Blackwood, Edinburgh; and John Cumming, Dublin; by Thomas Davison, [], →OCLC, (please specify the stanza number):
      But thy fire / Shall be more tempered, and thy hope far higher.
    • 1709, Joseph Addison, The Tatler, number 100:
      She [the Goddess of Justice] threw darkness and clouds about her, that tempered the light into a thousand beautiful shades and colours.
  10. (obsolete) To fit together; to adjust; to accommodate.

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