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[tem-per-uh] /ˈtɛm pər ə/
a technique of painting in which an emulsion consisting of water and pure egg yolk or a mixture of egg and oil is used as a binder or medium, characterized by its lean film-forming properties and rapid drying rate.
a painting executed in this technique.
a water paint used in this technique in which the egg-water or egg-oil emulsion is used as a binder.
Compare distemper2 (defs 1, 2).
Origin of tempera
1825-35; < Italian, short for (pingere a) tempera (painting in) distemper, derivative of temperare to mingle, temper; see temper Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for tempera
  • Egg tempera paint has been used by artists since ancient times.
  • Then, have them form river channels and coat with blue enamel paint and color the land with tempera paint.
  • Oils allow painters to use techniques unimaginable with egg tempera.
  • Linen has been primed to receive tempera and oil, and a technique has been devised to create portable frescoes.
  • Next time it rains, sprinkle lots of powdered tempera paints on a piece of paper.
  • For much of his career he painted not only in watercolors but in tempera, a pigment and egg-white medium that predates oil paint.
  • Investigate approaches to painting with acrylics, tempera and watercolor.
  • Wyeth's favorite media were watercolor and egg tempera.
  • Artists have commonly applied a final transparent coating to the surface of oil and tempera paintings.
British Dictionary definitions for tempera


a painting medium for powdered pigments, consisting usually of egg yolk and water
  1. any emulsion used as a painting medium, with casein, glue, wax, etc, as a base
  2. the paint made from mixing this with pigment
the technique of painting with tempera
Word Origin
C19: from Italian phrase pingere a tempera painting in tempera, from temperare to mingle; see temper
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tempera

1832, from Italian tempera (in phrase pingere a tempera), from temperare "to mix colors, temper," from Latin temperare "to mix" (see temper (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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