noun (used with a plural verb)
a liquid, often an alcoholic liquor, in which bitter herbs or roots have steeped, used as a flavoring, especially in mixed drinks, or as a tonic.
a liquid, usually alcoholic, impregnated with a bitter medicine, as gentian or quassia, used to increase the appetite or as a tonic.
bitter medicinal substances in general, as quinine.

1705–15; bitter + -s3 Unabridged


adjective, bitterer, bitterest.
having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes.
producing one of the four basic taste sensations; not sour, sweet, or salt.
hard to bear; grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow.
causing pain; piercing; stinging: a bitter chill.
characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred.
hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson.
resentful or cynical: bitter words.
that which is bitter; bitterness: Learn to take the bitter with the sweet.
British. a very dry ale having a strong taste of hops.
verb (used with object)
to make bitter: herbs employed to bitter vermouth.
extremely; very; exceedingly: a bitter cold night.

before 1000; Middle English, Old English biter; cognate with German bitter, Old Norse bitr, Gothic baitrs; akin to bite

bitterish, adjective
bitterly, adverb
bitterness, noun
nonbitter, adjective
overbitter, adjective
overbitterly, adverb
overbitterness, noun
unbitter, adjective

bidder, bitter.

1. acrid, biting, distasteful. 3. distressing, poignant, painful. 4. biting, nipping. 5. fierce, cruel, ruthless, relentless. 7. acrimonious, caustic, sardonic, scornful. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bitter (ˈbɪtə)
1.  Compare sour having or denoting an unpalatable harsh taste, as the peel of an orange or coffee dregs
2.  showing or caused by strong unrelenting hostility or resentment: he was still bitter about the divorce
3.  difficult or unpleasant to accept or admit: a bitter blow
4.  cutting; sarcastic: bitter words
5.  bitingly cold: a bitter night
6.  very; extremely (esp in the phrase bitter cold)
7.  a thing that is bitter
8.  (Brit) beer with a high hop content, with a slightly bitter taste
9.  to make or become bitter
[Old English biter; related to bītan to bite]

bitters (ˈbɪtəz)
pl n
1.  bitter-tasting spirits of varying alcoholic content flavoured with plant extracts
2.  a similar liquid containing a bitter-tasting substance, used as a tonic to stimulate the appetite or improve digestion

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. biter "bitter, sharp, cutting, angry, cruel, embittered," from P.Gmc. *bitras- (cf. O.S. bitar, O.N. bitr, Du. bitter, O.H.G. bittar, Ger. bitter, Goth. baitrs "bitter"), from PIE base *bheid- "to split" (cf. O.E. bitan "bite;" see bite). Evidently the meaning drifted
in prehistoric times from "biting, of pungent taste," to "acrid-tasting." Used figuratively in O.E. of states of mind and words. Phrase to the bitter end is attested from 1849. Related: Bitterly.

1713, from bitter. So called for its taste.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Bitter definition

Bitterness is symbolical of affliction, misery, and servitude (Ex. 1:14; Ruth 1:20; Jer. 9:15). The Chaldeans are called the "bitter and hasty nation" (Hab. 1:6). The "gall of bitterness" expresses a state of great wickedness (Acts 8:23). A "root of bitterness" is a wicked person or a dangerous sin (Heb. 12:15). The Passover was to be eaten with "bitter herbs" (Ex. 12:8; Num. 9:11). The kind of herbs so designated is not known. Probably they were any bitter herbs obtainable at the place and time when the Passover was celebrated. They represented the severity of the servitude under which the people groaned; and have been regarded also as typical of the sufferings of Christ.

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Encyclopedia Britannica


any of numerous aromatized and often alcoholic liquids containing bitter substances (chiefly alkaloids, glycosides, or complexes), used as tonics, liqueurs, appetizers, digestives, flavourings, and ingredients to add tang or smoothness to alcoholic drinks. Bitters are prepared according to secret recipes by several manufacturers using bitter herbs, leaves, fruits, seeds, or roots and sometimes alcohol or sugar. The taste is imparted by substances such as orange peel, gentian root, rhubarb root, hop flowers, quassia-wood chips, cascarilla, cinchona bark, and quinine. Aroma is provided by juniper, cinnamon, caraway, anise, nutmeg, camomile, cloves, and other flavouring agents. Bitters are usually named according to the ingredient giving the predominant flavour, such as orange bitters and peach bitters. The alcoholic strength varies but is generally about 40 percent by volume

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
There is a night club on the premises, which serves many varieties of lagers
  and bitters.
It is made from bitters and herbs, and though it goes down relatively smooth,
  the aftertaste kicks and lingers.
Top with reserved vermouth, cherry juice and bitters.
Place your sugar cube in a chilled flute and soak it with a few dashes of
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