The history of four kinds of temperament
There are numerous personality tests to define your temperament and we all know that psychologists single out four basic types of it. Astonishingly enough, but these four types were first described by Hippocrates as early as the 4th century B.C.
For over two thousand years the prevailing medical view was that soundness of mind and body depended on the proper mixture of four liquids or humors, as they were called, for the original meaning of humor is "liquid".
These four "humors" were blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black bile. A person's temperament (Latin, temperare, "to mix in due proportion") was the special combination of these fluids which resulted in his/her own individual personality.
So the different types of temperament were designated by the name of the particular humor which predominated. An excess of blood (sanguine - "blood") made a person sanguine, and thus of a cheerful, hopeful disposition, which is the current meaning of a word. A predominance of phlegm made one unemotional and calm, and so the term phlegmatic came to have this meaning. The Greek term for "bile" is chole; since this humor was thought to bring about an angry nature, a quick-tempered person is now sometimes termed choleric. The cause of melancholy (Greek, melas, "black", and chole "bile"), as people thought, was the presence of too much black bile, so this state implies sadness, gloom, and depression.
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