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 ).

1825–35; < Italian, short for (pingere a) tempera (painting in) distemper, derivative of temperare to mingle, temper; see temper

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World English Dictionary
tempera (ˈtɛmpərə)
1.  a painting medium for powdered pigments, consisting usually of egg yolk and water
2.  a.  any emulsion used as a painting medium, with casein, glue, wax, etc, as a base
 b.  the paint made from mixing this with pigment
3.  the technique of painting with tempera
[C19: from Italian phrase pingere a tempera painting in tempera, from temperare to mingle; see temper]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

1832, from It. tempera (in phrase pingere a tempera), from temperare "to mix colors, temper," from L. temperare "to mix" (see temper).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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