Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
January 17th, 2015
Episode 79 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for January 17, 2015 is: distemper \dis-TEM-per\ verb : to throw out of order Examples: Martha worried that employee morale at the company would be distempered if the rumored merger were to happen. "The night was rightfully dedicated to much of the new album, 'Come On a Get It' opening the set while the Schoolhouse Rock-influenced 'Stand' and bolder still 'Rock Star City Life' distempered the more recognizable pellets in Kravitz's arsenal." Selena Fragassi, PopMatters, February 15, 2013 Did you know? If you temper something, you soften or dilute it by mixing in something else. You might, for example, temper wine with water or temper judgment with mercy. But what if you add the wrong thing and just end up with a big mess? That's the general idea behind distemper, which came to English in the 14th century from Late Latin distemperare ("to mix badly"). Nowadays, we often use the participial form distempered to refer to a mood that is affected by negative feelings. There's also the noun distemper, which can mean "bad humor or temper" or "a serious virus disease of dogs." Another noun and verb pair of distemper entered English centuries after our featured word. The noun refers to a painting process in which pigments are mixed with glutinous substances, like egg yolks or whites. The related verb means "to paint in or with distemper."