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[bit-er] /ˈbɪt ər/
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.
Origin of bitter
before 1000; Middle English, Old English biter; cognate with German bitter, Old Norse bitr, Gothic baitrs; akin to bite
Related forms
bitterish, adjective
bitterly, adverb
bitterness, noun
nonbitter, adjective
overbitter, adjective
overbitterly, adverb
overbitterness, noun
unbitter, adjective
Can be confused
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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for bitterness
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Why not ask a blessing on the cup of bitterness as well as upon the cup of thanksgiving?

    Talks To Farmers Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • While Margaret groaned in bitterness, she heard a knock at the street door.

    The Wives of The Dead Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • "I suppose we are all nowhere to-night," added Rupert, with a touch of bitterness in his voice.

    To Him That Hath Ralph Connor
  • He was thinking, with bitterness, of his own youthful indiscretions.

    Thoroughbreds W. A. Fraser
  • The thought that he had lost pretty Geraldine forever was bitterness to his heart.

    Pretty Geraldine, the New York Salesgirl Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller
British Dictionary definitions for bitterness


having or denoting an unpalatable harsh taste, as the peel of an orange or coffee dregs Compare sour (sense 1)
showing or caused by strong unrelenting hostility or resentment: he was still bitter about the divorce
difficult or unpleasant to accept or admit: a bitter blow
cutting; sarcastic: bitter words
bitingly cold: a bitter night
very; extremely (esp in the phrase bitter cold)
a thing that is bitter
(Brit) beer with a high hop content, with a slightly bitter taste
to make or become bitter
See also bitters
Derived Forms
bitterly, adverb
bitterness, noun
Word Origin
Old English biter; related to bītan to bite
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bitterness

Old English biternys "bitterness, grief;" see bitter + -ness. Figurative sense (of feelings, etc.) is attested earlier than literal sense (of taste), which will surprise no one who reads any amount of Anglo-Saxon literature.



Old English biter "bitter, sharp, cutting; angry, embittered; cruel," from Proto-Germanic *bitras- (cf. Old Saxon bittar, Old Norse bitr, Dutch bitter, Old High German bittar, German bitter, Gothic baitrs "bitter"), from PIE root *bheid- "to split" (cf. Old English bitan "to bite;" see bite (v.)). Evidently the meaning drifted in prehistoric times from "biting, of pungent taste," to "acrid-tasting." Used figuratively in Old English of states of mind and words. Related: Bitterly.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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bitterness in the Bible

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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Idioms and Phrases with bitterness
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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