In systems consisting of many particles, be they solid bodies, fluids or gases, the constitutents are in constant, chaotic motion: the atoms in a solid crystal oscillate a bit, the molecules of a gas are in rapid, disordered motion, and so on. The average energy with which each constitutent contributes to every part of the disorderly motion is the same, and it is called the temperature of the system. High average energy corresponds to high temperature – atoms vibrating wildly, gas molecules zipping around very fast -, low average energy to low temperature.

In a slightly different context, certain mixtures of electromagnetic radiation can be assigned a temperature (“radiation temperature”), a single parameter that completely defines the basic properties of the radiation (more precisely, its spectrum). It corresponds to the thermal radiation emitted by a hot body with precisely that temperature.

In physics, temperature is measured in Kelvin, in everyday life, depending on the country, in Fahrenheit or Celsius.