bitter end

[bit-er end for 1; bit-er end for 2]
noun
1.
the conclusion of a difficult or unpleasant situation; the last or furthest extremity: Despite the unpleasant scenes in the movie, she insisted on staying until the bitter end.
2.
Nautical.
a.
the inboard end of an anchor chain or cable, secured in the chain locker of a vessel.
b.
the end of any chain or cable.

Origin:
1620–30 in form bitters end; probably bitt + er1, later taken as bitter

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
bitter end
 
n
1.  nautical the end of a line, chain, or cable, esp the end secured in the chain locker of a vessel
2.  a.  to the bitter end until the finish of a task, job, or undertaking, however unpleasant or difficult
 b.  until final defeat or death
 
[C19: in both senses perhaps from bitt]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

bitter end

The last extremity; also, death or ruin. For example, I'm supporting the union's demands to the bitter end, or Even though they fight a lot, I'm sure Mom and Dad will stay together to the bitter end. The source of this term may have been nautical, a bitter being a turn of a cable around posts, or bitts, on a ship's deck, and the bitter end meaning "the part of the cable that stays inboard." Thus, when a rope is paid out to the bitter end, no more remains. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
Still, there is no need to actually go through tenure denial to the bitter end,
  if you are afforded the opportunity to withdraw.
So instead they'll choose to litigate cases until the bitter end.
It was an incredibly entertaining game, and both sides fought it out to the
  bitter end.
To the bitter end, they failed to meet their father's expectations of them.
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