The word tempura was first attested in 1920 in an English-language Japanese newspaper, when it was used to describe the method of cooking. You'd think that would just come from another Proto-Japonic root, but they actually borrowed the practice of cooking in flour and egg batter from Portuguese missionaries in the sixteenth century! The word is definitely Portuguese, and most sources suggest that it comes from tempero, meaning "seasoning", while others think it could be from the holiday Tempora, when Catholics would eat fried vegetables and fish. Either way, though, tempura eventually traces to the Latin word tempus, meaning "time" - the former through the verb temperare, which translates to "to temper", and the latter from the notion that the holiday was celebrated during a specific time period.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.