Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Temperance

Temperance is a Virtue Name. The three main theological virtues are, of course, Faith, Hope and Love. The four cardinal virtues are known as Prudence, Justice, Restraint/Temperance, and Fortitude/Courage. Later on in the 5th century the seven heavenly virtues were instituted into Christianity. They are known as: Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. The religiously strict Puritans adopted many of the virtues as names for their baby daughters around the time of the Reformation. The most popular virtues bestowed as female names are Faith, Hope, Charity, Prudence, Patience and, to a lesser extent, Chastity and Temperance. The word Temperance was developed in the mid 13th century, borrowed from the Anglo-French from the Latin “temperantia” meaning “moderation in action, self-control”. English speakers used the word in place of the Latin “abstinentia” (abstinence, self-restraint) and “continentia” (repressing) in that it referenced the (non) consumption of alcohol specifically. By the early 19th century, Temperance came to mean “abstinence from alcoholic drink.” Period. The regular usage of Temperance in connection with alcohol came just in time to English speakers of the United Kingdom who were about to embark on one of the first mass movements against alcoholic abuse. Advocating total abstinence in the UK, the term “teetotaling” entered the English lexicon for the first time (probably meaning T-total, i.e., total abstinence with a capital T). The movement was especially borne by and directed at working-class citizens in whose communities the “perils of drink” was most destructive. American citizens with a religious fervor and a zeal for morality followed soon thereafter with their own anti-alcohol Temperance movements. The American Temperance Society was formed in 1826 and Temperance activist finally managed to get the 18th Amendment passed in 1919 (known as Prohibition). Prohibition managed to legislate the manufacture, sale and transportation of alcohol, but it somehow missed the most important point: i.e., the purchase and consumption. Oopsie. Sounds like a big faux pas in the language of the law. Still, the 18th Amendment stood for 13 long years (1920-1933), all the while a black-market was created, speakeasies popped up across the American landscape and organized crime went gangbusters. In 1933 the 21st Amendment was passed to repeal the ill-fated 18th Amendment (the only U.S. Constitutional Amendment out of 27 which was passed for the sole purpose of repealing another Amendment). We hate to break it to you, but alcohol consumption dates back 9,000 years ago thanks to archeology evidence uncovered in the Far East (China) and Mesopotamia (Middle East). The ancient Hebrews state quite plainly in Proverbs 31:6-7 “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” The ancient Aztecs and other Native American Indians developed alcohol for its medicinal properties. Consumption of alcohol was pretty much a common daily practice among ancient Greeks and Romans. Hey, by the Middle Ages everyone was doin’ it! From a religious perspective, Temperance first developed as a concept of moderation rather than total abstinence, but at some point enough over-zealous practitioners confused the two ideas. If you’re an advocate of Temperance, then you’ll want to avoid these countries: Czech Republic, Ireland, France, Austria, Portugal, Germany, Russia and many of the Slavic nations (which, according to the World Health Organization, have the largest per capita alcohol consumption). The biggest teetotaling nations can be found in North Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia. In the U.S., the lowest alcohol-consuming state is Utah. Apparently the Muslims, Hindus and Mormons adhere to their own self-imposed rules better than the Christians. The again, the Gospel of John reminds us of the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11), an oft-cited chapter in the New Testament that supports celebratory drinking. Considered one of Jesus’ first public miracles, the Messiah saves the day (and the wedding feast) by turning water into wine. Most people would agree that moderation is best, and so Temperance is really, at its very original core definition, not a bad idea. (Full disclosure: the author of this piece is currently drinking a nice Cabernet). Today, Temperance would be considered an out-dated virtue name, but it is showing a quiet hint of revival in the United States. The name, that is, not the concept.

All About the Baby Name – Temperance



The number one personality is a leader - strong and competitive. They are willing to initiate action and take risks. One personalities work hard toward their endeavors and have the ability to apply their creative and innovative thinking skills with strong determination. They believe in their ability to succeed and are too stubborn to be hindered by obstacles. Ones meet obstacles head-on with such mental vigor and energy that you better step aside. They resent taking orders, so don't try telling them what to do either. This is an intensely active personality, but they are also known as starters rather than finishers. They have a propensity to become bored and will move quickly to the next project if not properly challenged.  They are the ones to think up and put into action new and brilliant ideas, but they are not the ones to stick around and manage them. This personality has an enthusiastic and pioneering spirit. They are distinctly original.



If you look at the graph below you’ll hardly notice the fact that Temperance just appeared on the American female naming charts in 2011 (for the first time in at least 130+ years). Entering at position #941 on the Top 1000 list, Temperance is a rarely used name. However, bestowed on over 270 baby girls in 2011, this long-neglected virtue name managed to make the cut if even by a hair. We have to agree that as names go, this one is quite original. Not only that, but it does have a pretty resonance. However, we would think long and hard before giving this old-fashioned virtue name to a child. And here’s why. Faith, Hope, Grace, Charity, etc. are widely accepted virtues. Temperance is a bit more controversial. Not to mention that Temperance isn’t widely practiced among young people experimenting during high school and college years. We’re not advocating drinking; but we do advocate reality. This is a name with peer-pressure written all over it. Having said that, we completely respect your decision and applaud you for such a bold choice! Tempie is the most common nickname applied to this uniquely original name.

Quick Facts













Self-restraint, moderation









Cultural References to the Baby Name – Temperance

Literary Characters


Temperance is a theme embodied in “The Black Cat”, Edgar Allen Poe’s short story of 1843. It is the hard-core alcoholism of the narrator that drives him to the sins he commits – the abuse of his pet cat and his wife, and the eventual murder of both. He knows that alcohol is taking over, it has become a “fiend” that rules him, a “disease” for which there seems no cure. Once his crimes are committed, he goes further in concealing them and justifying them. The exercise of Temperance, one of the cardinal virtues, would have alleviated the horrendous impact of his impulses. Unfettered by his dependence on the mighty demon rum, having applied the saving graces of moderation and prudence, our narrator’s destiny, as indeed that of his victims’, would have been a much happier one.

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Temperance

Popular Songs


With Time and Temperance
a song by Paul Weller

Famous People


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Children of Famous People


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Historic Figures


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