mid-14c., "self-restraint, moderation," from Anglo-French temperaunce (mid-13c.), from Latin temperantia "moderation, sobriety, discretion, self-control," from temperans, present participle of temperare "to moderate" (see temper (v.)). Latin temperantia was used by Cicero to translate Greek sophrosyne "moderation." In English, temperance was used to render Latin continentia or abstinentia, specifically in reference to drinking alcohol and eating; hence by early 1800s it had come to mean "abstinence from alcoholic drink."
updated on January 20, 2014