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[adjective bit-er-sweet, bit-er-sweet; noun bit-er-sweet] /adjective ˌbɪt ərˈswit, ˈbɪt ərˌswit; noun ˈbɪt ərˌswit/
both bitter and sweet to the taste:
bittersweet chocolate.
both pleasant and painful or regretful:
a bittersweet memory.
Also called woody nightshade. a climbing or trailing plant, Solanum dulcamara, of the nightshade family, having small, violet, star-shaped flowers with a protruding yellow center and scarlet berries.
Also called climbing bittersweet. any climbing plant of the genus Celastrus, bearing orange capsules opening to expose red-coated seeds, especially C. scandens.
pleasure mingled with pain or regret:
the bittersweet of parting.
Origin of bittersweet
1350-1400; Middle English; see bitter, sweet
Related forms
bittersweetly, adverb
bittersweetness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for bittersweet
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was tinged with bittersweet—bitter because Daddy was going away, sweet because she had desired it so fondly.

    Tess of the Storm Country Grace Miller White
  • Then there are the orange berries of bittersweet and the red ones of holly.

  • From the bittersweet, too weak for such, we rise to the dark nightshades, which have rather more effect.

  • Other finches like bittersweet, sorrel, and amaranth, all of which we are glad to have them eat.

    The Children's Book of Birds Olive Thorne Miller
  • Around the case he planted wild clematis, bittersweet, and wild-grapevines, and trained them over it until it was almost covered.

    Freckles Gene Stratton-Porter
British Dictionary definitions for bittersweet


any of several North American woody climbing plants of the genus Celastrus, esp C. scandens, having orange capsules that open to expose scarlet-coated seeds: family Celastraceae
another name for woody nightshade
tasting of or being a mixture of bitterness and sweetness
pleasant but tinged with sadness
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 bittersweet

also bitter-sweet, late 14c. as a noun; used especially in Middle English of a type of apple, from bitter (adj.) + sweet (adj.). As an adjective, attested from 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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