1 [bit]
a removable drilling or boring tool for use in a brace, drill press, or the like.
a removable boring head used on certain kinds of drills, as a rock drill.
a device for drilling oil wells or the like, consisting of a horizontally rotating blade or an assembly of rotating toothed wheels.
the mouthpiece of a bridle, having fittings at each end to which the reins are fastened. See illus. under harness.
anything that curbs or restrains.
the blade or iron of a carpenter's plane.
the cutting part of an ax or hatchet.
the wide portion at the end of an ordinary key that moves the bolt.
verb (used with object), bitted, bitting.
to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse).
to curb or restrain with, or as with, a bit.
to grind a bit on (a key).
take the bit in/between one's teeth, to cast off control; willfully go one's own way: He took the bit in his teeth and acted against his parents' wishes.

before 900; Middle English bite, Old English: action of biting; cognate with German Biss, Old Norse bit. See bite

bitless, adjective Unabridged


2 [bit]
a small piece or quantity of anything: a bit of string.
a short time: Wait a bit.
Informal. an amount equivalent to 12½ U.S. cents (used only in even multiples): two bits; six bits.
an act, performance, or routine: She's doing the Camille bit, pretending to be near collapse.
a stereotypic or habitual set of behaviors, attitudes, or styles associated with an individual, role, situation, etc.: the whole Wall Street bit.
Also called bit part. a very small role, as in a play or motion picture, containing few or no lines. Compare walk-on ( def 1 ).
any small coin: a threepenny bit.
a Spanish or Mexican silver real worth 12½ cents, formerly current in parts of the U.S.
a bit, rather or somewhat; a little: a bit sleepy.
a bit much, somewhat overdone or beyond tolerability.
bit by bit, by degrees; gradually: Having saved money bit by bit, they now had enough to buy the land.
do one's bit, to contribute one's share to an effort: They all did their bit during the war.
every bit, quite; just: every bit as good.
quite a bit, a fairly large amount: There's quite a bit of snow on the ground.

before 1000; Middle English bite, Old English bita bit, morsel; cognate with German Bissen, Old Norse biti. See bite

1. particle, speck, grain, mite; whit, iota, jot; scrap, fragment.


3 [bit]
noun Computers.
Also called binary digit. a single, basic unit of information, used in connection with computers and information theory.

1945–50; b(inary) + (dig)it


4 [bit]
simple past tense and a past participle of bite.


Bachelor of Industrial Technology.


verb (used with object), bit, bitten or bit, biting.
to cut, wound, or tear with the teeth: She bit the apple greedily. The lion bit his trainer.
to grip or hold with the teeth: Stop biting your lip!
to sting, as does an insect.
to cause to smart or sting: an icy wind that bit our faces.
to sever with the teeth (often followed by off ): Don't bite your nails. The child bit off a large piece of the candy bar.
to start to eat (often followed by into ): She bit into her steak.
to clamp the teeth firmly on or around (often followed by on ): He bit hard on the stick while they removed the bullet from his leg.
to take advantage of; cheat; deceive: I got bitten in a mail-order swindle.
to annoy or upset; anger: What's biting you, sorehead?
to eat into or corrode, as does an acid.
to cut or pierce with, or as with, a weapon: The sword split his helmet and bit him fatally.
Etching. to etch with acid (a copper or other surface) in such parts as are left bare of a protective coating.
to take firm hold or act effectively on: We need a clamp to bite the wood while the glue dries.
Archaic. to make a decided impression on; affect.
verb (used without object), bit, bitten or bit, biting.
to press the teeth into something; attack with the jaws, bill, sting, etc.; snap: Does your parrot bite?
Angling. (of fish) to take bait: The fish aren't biting today.
to accept an offer or suggestion, especially one intended to trick or deceive: I knew it was a mistake, but I bit anyway.
Informal. to admit defeat in guessing: I'll bite, who is it?
to act effectively; grip; hold: This wood is so dry the screws don't bite.
Slang. to be notably repellent, disappointing, poor, etc.; suck.
an act of biting.
a wound made by biting: a deep bite.
a cutting, stinging, or nipping effect: the bite of an icy wind; the bite of whiskey on the tongue.
a piece bitten off: Chew each bite carefully.
a small meal: Let's have a bite before the theater.
a portion severed from the whole: the government's weekly bite of my paycheck.
a morsel of food: not a bite to eat.
the occlusion of one's teeth: The dentist said I had a good bite.
the catch or hold that one object or one part of a mechanical apparatus has on another.
a surface brought into contact to obtain a hold or grip, as in a lathe chuck or similar device.
the amount of material that a mechanical shovel or the like can carry at one time.
sharpness; incisiveness; effectiveness: The bite of his story is spoiled by his slovenly style.
the roughness of the surface of a file.
Metalworking. the maximum angle, measured from the center of a roll in a rolling mill, between a perpendicular and a line to the point of contact where a given object to be rolled will enter between the rolls.
bite off more than one can chew, to attempt something that exceeds one's capacity: In trying to build a house by himself, he bit off more than he could chew.
bite someone's head off, to respond with anger or impatience to someone's question or comment: He'll bite your head off if you ask for anything.
bite the bullet. bullet ( def 7 ).
bite the dust. dust ( def 21 ).
bite the hand that feeds one, to repay kindness with malice or injury: When he berates his boss, he is biting the hand that feeds him.
put the bite on, Slang.
to solicit or attempt to borrow money or something of value from.
to press for money, as in extortion: They found out about his prison record and began to put the bite on him.

before 1000; Middle English biten, Old English bītan; cognate with Old High German bīzan (German beissen), Gothic beitan, Old Norse bīta; akin to Latin findere to split

bitable, biteable, adjective

bight, bite, byte.

1. gnaw, chew, nip. 22. mouthful, morsel, taste; scrap, crumb, dab. 23. snack, nosh. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bit1 (bɪt)
1.  a small piece, portion, or quantity
2.  a short time or distance
3.  informal (US), (Canadian) the value of an eighth of a dollar: spoken of only in units of two: two bits
4.  any small coin
5.  short for bit part
6.  informal way of behaving, esp one intended to create a particular impression: she's doing the prima donna bit
7.  a bit rather; somewhat: a bit dreary
8.  a bit of
 a.  rather: a bit of a dope
 b.  a considerable amount: that must take quite a bit of courage
9.  slang (Brit) a bit of all right, a bit of crumpet, a bit of stuff, a bit of tail a sexually attractive woman
10.  bit by bit gradually
11.  informal bit on the side an extramarital affair
12.  do one's bit to make one's expected contribution
13.  (foll by as) every bit to the same degree: she was every bit as clever as her brother
14.  not a bit, not a bit of it not in the slightest; not at all
15.  to bits completely apart: to fall to bits
[Old English bite action of biting; see bite]

bit2 (bɪt)
1.  a metal mouthpiece, for controlling a horse on a bridle
2.  anything that restrains or curbs
3.  take the bit in one's teeth, take the bit between one's teeth, have the bit in one's teeth, have the bit between one's teeth
 a.  to undertake a task with determination
 b.  to rebel against control
4.  a cutting or drilling tool, part, or head in a brace, drill, etc
5.  the blade of a woodworking plane
6.  the part of a pair of pincers designed to grasp an object
7.  the copper end of a soldering iron
8.  the part of a key that engages the levers of a lock
vb , bits, bitting, bitted
9.  to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse)
10.  to restrain; curb
[Old English bita; related to Old English bītan to bite]

bit3 (bɪt)
the past tense and (archaic) past participle of bite

bit4 (bɪt)
1.  a single digit of binary notation, represented either by 0 or by 1
2.  the smallest unit of information, indicating the presence or absence of a single feature
3.  a unit of capacity of a computer, consisting of an element of its physical structure capable of being in either of two states, such as a switch with on and off positions, or a microscopic magnet capable of alignment in two directions
[C20: from abbreviation of binary digit]

bite (baɪt)
vb (often foll by for) , bites, biting, bit, bitten
1.  to grip, cut off, or tear with or as if with the teeth or jaws
2.  (of animals, insects, etc) to injure by puncturing or tearing (the skin or flesh) with the teeth, fangs, etc, esp as a natural characteristic
3.  (tr) to cut or penetrate, as with a knife
4.  (of corrosive material such as acid) to eat away or into
5.  to smart or cause to smart; sting: mustard bites the tongue
6.  (intr) angling (of a fish) to take or attempt to take the bait or lure
7.  to take firm hold of or act effectively upon
8.  to grip or hold (a workpiece) with a tool or chuck
9.  (of a screw, thread, etc) to cut into or grip (an object, material, etc)
10.  informal (tr) to annoy or worry: what's biting her?
11.  slang (often passive) to cheat
12.  slang (Austral), (NZ) to ask (for); scrounge from
13.  informal bite off more than one can chew to attempt a task beyond one's capability
14.  bite the bullet to face up to (pain, trouble, etc) with fortitude; be stoical
15.  bite someone's head off to respond harshly and rudely (to)
16.  bite the dust See dust
17.  bite the hand that feeds one to repay kindness with injury or ingratitude
18.  once bitten, twice shy after an unpleasant experience one is cautious in similar situations
19.  slang (Austral) put the bite on someone to ask someone for money
20.  the act of biting
21.  a thing or amount bitten off
22.  a wound, bruise, or sting inflicted by biting
23.  angling an attempt by a fish to take the bait or lure
24.  informal an incisive or penetrating effect or quality: that's a question with a bite
25.  a light meal; snack
26.  a cutting, stinging, or smarting sensation
27.  the depth of cut of a machine tool
28.  the grip or hold applied by a tool or chuck to a workpiece
29.  dentistry the angle or manner of contact between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed naturally
30.  the surface of a file or rasp with cutting teeth
31.  the corrosive action of acid, as on a metal etching plate
[Old English bītan; related to Latin findere to split, Sanskrit bhedati he splits]

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

related O.E. words bite "act of biting," and bita "piece bitten off," are probably the source of the modern words meaning "boring-piece of a drill" (1590s), "mouthpiece of a horse's bridle" (mid-14c.), and "a piece bitten off, morsel" (c.1000). All from P.Gmc. *biton (cf. O.S. biti, O.N. bit, O.Fris.
bite, M.Du. bete, O.H.G. bizzo, Ger. Bissen "bit, morsel"), from PIE base *bheid- "to split" (see fissure). Meaning "small piece, fragment" is from c.1600. Theatrical bit part is from 1926. Money sense in two bits, six bits, etc. is originally from Southern U.S. and West Indies, in ref. to silver wedges cut or stamped from Sp. dollars (later Mexican reals); transferred to "eighth of a dollar."

computerese word, 1948 abbreviation (coined by J.W. Tukey) of binary digit, probably chosen for its identity with bit (1).

O.E. bitan (class I strong verb; past tense bat, pp. biten), from P.Gmc. *bitan (O.Fris. bita, M.Du. biten, Ger. beissen, Goth. beitan "to bite"), from PIE base *bheid- "to split, crack" (see fissure). To bite the bullet is 1700s military slang, from old medical custom of
having the patient bite a bullet during an operation to divert attention from pain and reduce screaming. To bite (one's) tongue "refrain from speaking" is 1590s. To bite the dust "die" is 1750. To bite off more than one can chew (c.1880) is U.S. slang, from plug tobacco.

past tense of bite.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

bite (bīt)
v. bit (bĭt), bit·ten (bĭt'n) or bit, bit·ing, bites

  1. To cut, grip, or tear with the teeth.

  2. To pierce the skin of with the teeth, fangs, or mouthparts.

  1. The act of biting.

  2. A puncture or laceration of the skin by the teeth of an animal or the mouthparts of an insect or similar organism.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Science Dictionary
bit   (bĭt)  Pronunciation Key 
The smallest unit of computer memory. A bit holds one of two possible values, either of the binary digits 0 or 1. The term comes from the phrase binary digit. See Note at byte.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

bit definition

The smallest unit of information. One bit corresponds to a “yes” or “no.” Some examples of a bit of information: whether a light is on or off, whether a switch (like a transistor) is on or off, whether a grain of magnetized iron points up or down.

Note: The information in a digital computer is stored in the form of bits.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Computing Dictionary

bit definition

(b) binary digit.
The unit of information; the amount of information obtained by asking a yes-or-no question; a computational quantity that can take on one of two values, such as false and true or 0 and 1; the smallest unit of storage - sufficient to hold one bit.
A bit is said to be "set" if its value is true or 1, and "reset" or "clear" if its value is false or 0. One speaks of setting and clearing bits. To toggle or "invert" a bit is to change it, either from 0 to 1 or from 1 to 0.
The term "bit" first appeared in print in the computer-science sense in 1949, and seems to have been coined by the eminent statistician, John Tukey. Tukey records that it evolved over a lunch table as a handier alternative to "bigit" or "binit".
See also flag, trit, mode bit, byte, word.
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
binary digit
built in test
built-in test equipment
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Bible Dictionary

Bit definition

the curb put into the mouths of horses to restrain them. The Hebrew word (metheg) so rendered in Ps. 32:9 is elsewhere translated "bridle" (2 Kings 19:28; Prov. 26:3; Isa. 37:29). Bits were generally made of bronze or iron, but sometimes also of gold or silver. In James 3:3 the Authorized Version translates the Greek word by "bits," but the Revised Version by "bridles."

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with bit, also see a bit; champ at the bit; do one's bit; every bit; not a bit; quite a bit; take the bit in one's mouth; two bits.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
It's also a little tiny bit fun, not to mention a little tiny bit beneficial.
On a micro-scale, related bits of information may be scattered far apart, and
  it's impossible to figure out what bit encodes what.
Grab a piece of wholegrain bread with peanut butter and a bit of jelly freeze
  tube yogurt and eat it as ice-cream.
But being able to feel a bit better-off than someone else makes it a bit more
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