etymology of "high" temperature

I wonder if someone with an Oxford English Dictionary could help me out on the etymology of “temperature”, and the use of the adjective “high” to mean a hot temperature. Why do we say high temperature? In my dictionary, the words “hot” and “cold” have Indo-European roots (kai- and gel- respectively). This shows these are ancient words. I think languages without these words would be very rare. (My best guess for languages without “cold” would be native Australian languages. There are few high mountains in Aus.)

The English word “temperature” appears to be more recent. My dictionary says the etymology is: ME temperate weather < Lat. temperatura, due measure < temperatus, p. part of temperare, to mix. So it looks like the use of “temperature” to mean ‘degree of hotness or coldness of a body as measured by a standard scale’ might date to the invention of thermometers. Is this so? How about the use of “high” temp. to mean “hot”?

I should probably wait to get dates for the above two questions, but rather than do that, I will put down my speculations. Some may be silly based on the true date of the use of “high temperature”.

Well, what else besides high and low? Some other possible antonym pairs: big/small, light/dark, strong/weak, heavy/light, good/bad, deep/shallow. It seems to me that pre-scientific people knew this about hot things: Hot things can burn you. Smoke from fire rises up into the air. Mountains are colder than sea-level
elevations (usually). Hot stones can come up out of the Earth. Hot things emit light. Fire consumes wood.

I can’t do much with that last one. Using the first concept, you could call hot temperatures “painful”, but English does not have a good antonym to painful. Do other languages? The fact that coals glow might lead us to call hot temperatures bright, and cold ones dark. The fact that mountains are cold, and that deep mines and the place where lava is supplied to volcanos might lead to calling hot temperatures low, or deep, and cold temperatures high or shallow. This is the reverse of current usage. Smoke from fires seems to support hot=high. Good and bad are too situational to apply to hot and cold. Extremes of hot or too cold can be bad.

Though “high” could be more recent, I know the thermometer was invented long before the kinetic theory of gasses, so “high” predates ‘large average velocity of the particles’. Perhaps Fahrenheit’s thermometer would only work if it was standing upright, and thus the higher up the tube the fluid went, the hotter the temp.?

Not answering the original question, but on this point: Hooleehootoo has obviously not been in the arid and desert regions of inland Australia, where is can get quite cold at night. There’s even the Australian English expression “Three-dog night”, for nights so cold that you need to sleep with your dogs to keep warm. People without a “cold” concept are more likely to come from close to the Equator, and a lot of Australia is way from the Equator.

Yes, I have, and I wanna go back. I know that Mount Kosciusko at > 2km will often have snow on it.

Since people originated in Africa, I would guess that the first (proto-?)languages had a word for hot before cold. I was looking for people that might have a language without a lot of contact with others, from a hot part of the earth.

I believe the polynesians are much more recent arrivals to Oceania than the aboriginals to Aus (1000 B.C.E. vs. 50000 B.C.E.), making the ancestors of the polynesians more likely to have lived in cold climates.

The earliest definitive cite from the OED of high temperature: "1826 Henry Elem. Chem. I. 540 Nitrate of potassa is rapidly decomposed by charcoal at a high temperature . . . "

The entry for temperature, by the way, lists six obsolete definitions before it gets to "The state of a substance or body with regard to sensible warmth or coldness, referred to some standard of comparison . . . ", which it parenthetically notes as the current ordinary usage. The previous definitions involve the “mixing or combining” types as well as “The combination of ‘humours’ in the body . . .” (temperament).

Might have something there - from the OED entry on high: “Of great amount, degree, force, or value; great, intense, extreme . . . Often in reference to a vertical graduated scale on which the magnitude or intensity of some action records itself by upward extension, or is marked by the position of lines, etc.”

The definition that Quixotic gave at the end of his post is a figurative (as opposed to literal) sense in use for centuries. The OED cites uses of “high” in this sense back to Chaucer and earlier. Here are two later uses related to temperature (spelling modernized).

1565-73 - Cooper, “Thesaurus”, “Ardentissimus color…a very high or glistening red color”.

1607 - Shakespeare, “Timon of Athens” IV, iii, 433 - “Till the high fever seethe your blood to froth”.

thanks for the OED stuff. When I thought of using shallow/deep to describe temperature, I thought I had something. Now I think the answer to my question is more simple. The references above show that “high” means ‘a great deal’. Since stuff can get very hot, but it uncommon that we see stuff much colder than ice, it seems (and it turns out that it is true) that the temperature scale is terminated in a colder direction, but not in a hotter direction. Since things can’t get greatly, greatly cold, it makes since to think of them as greatly, highly, hot.

Though it seems the question may be answered already, I think it may have to do with the way we refer to numbers. 8 is “higher” than 7, and so on. I don’t know when that use of “high” started, or even when numbers were first used, but it’s a thought.

I too would think it is mainly related to the way that 8 is a “higher” number than 7, and so on. According to Cecil himself:
when Celsius invented his scale, he originally made 0 the boiling point and 100 the freezing point of water. So, it seems that maybe back in the 1700s the high=hot convention was not quite as prevalent, and using “high temperature” to mean hot only became firmly established once people got used to using thermometers.

Wish I could remember where I saw a technical definition of temperature as a measure of heat, and thus cold as an absence of heat. So you can measure the amount of heat in an object, but not the amount of “coldness”; an object can be twice as hot as another (measured from absolute zero, I suppose), but not twice as cold.

Is there a separate unit of measure for “coldness”?