1. One's usual mood; temperament: a sweet disposition.
a. A habitual inclination; a tendency: a disposition to disagree.
b. A physical property or tendency: a swelling with a disposition to rupture.
3. Arrangement, positioning, or distribution: a cheerful disposition of colors and textures; a convoy oriented into a north-south disposition.
4. An act of disposing; a bestowal or transfer to another.
5. The power or liberty to control, direct, or dispose: the funds that were put at her disposition.
[Middle English disposicioun, from Old French disposition, from Latin dispositiō, dispositiōn-, from dispositus, past participle of dispōnere, to dispose; see DISPOSE.]
Synonyms: disposition, temperament, character, personality, nature
These nouns refer to the combination of qualities that identify a person. Disposition is approximately equivalent to prevailing frame of mind or spirit: "A patronizing disposition always has its meaner side" (George Eliot).
Temperament applies broadly to the sum of emotions, habits, and beliefs that affect or determine a person's actions and reactions: "She is ... of a very serene and proud and dignified temperament" (H.G. Wells).
Character can refer to a defining or distinguishing set of personal traits: "Whatever his peculiarities of character and outlook, he was far and away the most conversable person in our circle" (Andrew Ryan).
More often, though, it emphasizes a person's positive moral and ethical qualities: "Education has for its object the formation of character" (Herbert Spencer).
Personality is the sum of distinctive traits that give a person individuality: an outgoing, friendly personality.
Nature denotes native or inherent qualities: "It is my habit,—I hope I may say, my nature,—to believe the best of people" (George W. Curtis).
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.