from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An infectious viral disease occurring in dogs, characterized by loss of appetite, a catarrhal discharge from the eyes and nose, vomiting, fever, lethargy, partial paralysis caused by destruction of myelinated nerve tissue, and sometimes death. Also called canine distemper.
  • n. A similar viral disease of cats characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, and sometimes death. Also called feline distemper, panleukopenia.
  • n. Any of various similar mammalian diseases.
  • n. An illness or disease; an ailment: "He died . . . of a broken heart, a distemper which kills many more than is generally imagined” ( Henry Fielding).
  • n. Ill humor; testiness.
  • n. Disorder or disturbance, especially of a social or political nature.
  • transitive v. To put out of order.
  • transitive v. Archaic To unsettle; derange.
  • n. A process of painting in which pigments are mixed with water and a glue-size or casein binder, used for flat wall decoration or scenic and poster painting.
  • n. The paint used in this process.
  • n. A painting made by this process.
  • transitive v. To mix (powdered pigments or colors) with water and size.
  • transitive v. To paint (a work) in distemper.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A viral disease of animals, such as dogs and cats, characterised by fever, coughing and catarrh.
  • n. A disorder of the humours of the body; a disease.
  • n. A water-based paint.
  • n. A painting produced with this kind of paint.
  • v. to disturb and disorder, hence to make sick
  • v. to paint using distemper

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An undue or unnatural temper, or disproportionate mixture of parts.
  • n. Severity of climate; extreme weather, whether hot or cold.
  • n. A morbid state of the animal system; indisposition; malady; disorder; -- at present chiefly applied to diseases of brutes
  • n. Morbid temper of the mind; undue predominance of a passion or appetite; mental derangement; bad temper; ill humor.
  • n. Political disorder; tumult.
  • n.
  • n. A preparation of opaque or body colors, in which the pigments are tempered or diluted with weak glue or size (cf. Tempera) instead of oil, usually for scene painting, or for walls and ceilings of rooms.
  • n. A painting done with this preparation.
  • transitive v. To temper or mix unduly; to make disproportionate; to change the due proportions of.
  • transitive v. To derange the functions of, whether bodily, mental, or spiritual; to disorder; to disease.
  • transitive v. To deprive of temper or moderation; to disturb; to ruffle; to make disaffected, ill-humored, or malignant.
  • transitive v. To intoxicate.
  • transitive v. To mix (colors) in the way of distemper.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To change the temper or due proportions of.
  • To disease; disorder; derange the bodily or mental functions of.
  • To deprive of temper or moderation; ruffle; disturb.
  • To become diseased.
  • n. An unbalanced or unnatural temper; want of balance or proportion.
  • n.
  • n. Disease; malady; indisposition; any morbid state of an animal body or of any part of it: now most commonly applied to the diseases of brutes.
  • n. Specifically
  • n. A disease of young dogs, commonly considered as a catarrhal disorder.
  • n. Want of due temperature; severity of climate or weather.
  • n. Want of due balance of parts or opposite qualities and principles.
  • n. Ill humor; bad temper.
  • n. Political disorder; tumult.
  • n. Uneasiness; disorder of mind.
  • n. Synonyms Infirmity, Malady, etc. (see disease), complaint, disorder, ailment.
  • Lacking self-restraint; intemperate.
  • To prepare, as a pigment, for use in distemper painting.
  • n. A method of painting in which the colors are mixed with any binding medium soluble in water, such as yolk of egg and an equal quantity of water, yolk and white of egg beaten together and mixed with an equal quantity of milk, fig-tree sap, vinegar, wine, ox-gall, etc.
  • n. A pigment prepared for painting according to this method.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. paint with distemper
  • n. any of various infectious viral diseases of animals
  • n. an angry and disagreeable mood
  • n. a painting created with paint that is made by mixing the pigments with water and a binder
  • n. a method of painting in which the pigments are mixed with water and a binder; used for painting posters or murals or stage scenery
  • n. paint made by mixing the pigments with water and a binder


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

From Middle English distemperen, to upset the balance of the humors, from Old French destemprer, to disturb, from Late Latin distemperāre : Latin dis-, dis- + Latin temperāre, to mix properly.
Middle English distemperen, to dilute; see distemper1.


  • – They will not only ask what produced a scar, but they will insist upon knowing how long you have been troubled with it, whether the distemper is hereditary in your family, and whether you ever expect it will appear again.

    The Mother's Book

  • Giotto painted upon wood, and in "distemper" -- the mixture of colour with egg or some other jelly-like substance.

    Pictures Every Child Should Know A Selection of the World's Art Masterpieces for Young People

  • Robert Dossie described three categories of watercolor painting — miniature, the most delicate; distemper, which is coarser, uses less expensive colors in a glue or casein binder, and is appropriate for canvas hangings, ceilings, and other interior decorative painting purposes; and fresco. reference As a technique practiced by the Romans, fresco painting was a subject of particularly interest in the antiquity-obsessed eighteenth-century.

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe

  • As I was working my way through this novel, a serendipitous but calamitous event occurred: strangles an equine disease also known as distemper infected a stable run by a good friend of mine.


  • It was a relapse of its former distemper, that is, of the bite of the mad-dog.

    Medicine in Virginia, 1607-1699

  • Sad, undoubtedly, were our case, should God be angry with a nation as often as a preacher is pleased to be passionate, and to call his distemper the word of God.

    Sermons Preached Upon Several Occasions. Vol. V.

  • As for Bobadilla, he was no sooner come to Rome, than he fell sick of a continued fever; and it may be said, that his distemper was the hand of heaven, which had ordained another in his stead for the mission of the Indies.

    The Works of John Dryden

  • My distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off.

    The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

  • Colonel Crawford is dead at Minorca, and Colonel Burton has his regiment; the Primate (Stone) is better, but I suppose, from his distemper, which is a dropsy in his breast, irrecoverable.

    The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 3

  • "On Tuesday last died the Lord Mayor, Sir John Shorter: the occasion of his distemper was his fall under Newgate, which bruised him a little, and put him into a fever."

    The Letters of Horace Walpole, Earl of Orford — Volume 1


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