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Definition of "distemper" [dis•tem•per]

  • 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. (noun)
  • A similar viral disease of cats characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea leading to dehydration, and sometimes death. Also called feline distemper, panleukopenia. (noun)
  • Any of various similar mammalian diseases. (noun)
  • An illness or disease; an ailment: "He died . . . of a broken heart, a distemper which kills many more than is generally imagined” ( Henry Fielding). (noun)
  • Ill humor; testiness. (noun)

American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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