What Does Running a Temperature Mean?

Running a Temperature Meaning

Definition: To have a higher body temperature than normal; to have a fever.

Origin of Running a Temperature

This expression is fairly recent, as it originated around the year 1900. A synonymous expression is to run a fever. In both idioms, run means to move upward. This sense of run also appears in the phrase to run a tab.

Other ways to convey the same idea include to have a fever, to have gotten a fever, to have come down with a fever, to catch a fever, etc.

Although this idiom refers to any above average body heat for an individual, it is not typically significant until it reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.

Examples of Running a Temperature

running temperature definitionIn this dialogue, two employees are discussing an upcoming meeting.

Deanna: What is this meeting about again?

Emily: How can you not know that? You are the one who is leading the meeting!

Deanna: Oh no. Maybe I should have stayed home sick today. I haven’t felt well all day, but I didn’t want to miss this meeting.

Emily: Well, you certainly can’t go and run this meeting if you don’t even know what it’s about. If you are feeling that disoriented, you might be running a temperature. I’m going to go get the thermometer from the first aid kit.

Deanna: Okay. That’s a good idea.

running a high temperature In the second example, two baseball players are getting ready for a game.

Billy: Are you okay? You look terrible!

Angie: Normally, I would tell you that that is a rude thing to say. However, I guess it’s probably true. I feel awful right now. I’m feeling pretty faint.

Billy: Stand still, so I can feel your forehead.

Angie: Does it feel like I have a fever?

Billy: It feels pretty hot. You are probably running a temperature. You should sit out for the rest of the game, and then I’ll give you a ride home so you can rest.

More Examples

This excerpt is about the issues working parents must deal with.

  • Take any group of working parents and ply them with enough wine, and each will have an anecdote about hopping his or her kid up on Motrin and hoping for the best at day-care drop-off when the kid’s running a fever and the parent has a major meeting that can’t be missed. –New York Post

This excerpt is from an article about a woman who rescued a baby from a hot car.

  • “He was running a temperature, so he was really hot. The baby was red and looked uncomfortable,” she told the station. –New York Daily News


The expression run a temperature means to have an abnormally high internal body temperature due to a fever.