verb (used with object), bit·ted, bit·ting.

Nearby words

  1. bisulphate,
  2. bisulphide,
  3. bisulphite,
  4. bisutun,
  5. bisymmetric,
  6. bit between one's teeth,
  7. bit by bit,
  8. bit gauge,
  9. bit key,
  10. bit part


    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.

Origin of bit

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

Related formsbit·less, adjective




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.

Origin of bit

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



noun Computers.

Also called binary digit. a single, basic unit of information, used in connection with computers and information theory.

Origin of bit

First recorded in 1945–50; b(inary) + (dig)it




simple past tense and a past participle of bite.



verb (used with object), bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.

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.
  1. to take advantage of; cheat; deceive: I got bitten in a mail-order swindle.
  2. 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, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing.

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.
  1. the catch or hold that one object or one part of a mechanical apparatus has on another.
  2. a surface brought into contact to obtain a hold or grip, as in a lathe chuck or similar device.
  3. 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.

Origin of bite

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

Related formsbit·a·ble, bite·a·ble, adjective

Can be confusedbight bite byte


Bachelor of Industrial Technology. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bit

British Dictionary definitions for bit




a small piece, portion, or quantity
a short time or distance
US and Canadian informal the value of an eighth of a dollar: spoken of only in units of twotwo bits
any small coin
short for bit part
informal way of behaving, esp one intended to create a particular impressionshe's doing the prima donna bit
a bit rather; somewhata bit dreary
a bit of
  1. rathera bit of a dope
  2. a considerable amountthat must take quite a bit of courage
a bit of all right, a bit of crumpet, a bit of stuff or a bit of tail British slang a sexually attractive woman
bit by bit gradually
bit on the side informal an extramarital affair
do one's bit to make one's expected contribution
every bit (foll by as) to the same degreeshe was every bit as clever as her brother
not a bit or not a bit of it not in the slightest; not at all
to bits completely apartto fall to bits

Word Origin for bit

Old English bite action of biting; see bite


a metal mouthpiece, for controlling a horse on a bridle
anything that restrains or curbs
take the bit in one's teeth, take the bit between one's teeth, have the bit in one's teeth or have the bit between one's teeth
  1. to undertake a task with determination
  2. to rebel against control
a cutting or drilling tool, part, or head in a brace, drill, etc
the blade of a woodworking plane
the part of a pair of pincers designed to grasp an object
the copper end of a soldering iron
the part of a key that engages the levers of a lock

verb bits, bitting or bitted (tr)

to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse)
to restrain; curb

Word Origin for bit

Old English bita; related to Old English bītan to bite


the past tense and (archaic) past participle of bite

noun maths computing

a single digit of binary notation, represented either by 0 or by 1
the smallest unit of information, indicating the presence or absence of a single feature
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

Word Origin for bit

C20: from abbreviation of binary digit


verb bites, biting, bit or bitten

to grip, cut off, or tear with or as if with the teeth or jaws
(of animals, insects, etc) to injure by puncturing or tearing (the skin or flesh) with the teeth, fangs, etc, esp as a natural characteristic
(tr) to cut or penetrate, as with a knife
(of corrosive material such as acid) to eat away or into
to smart or cause to smart; stingmustard bites the tongue
(intr) angling (of a fish) to take or attempt to take the bait or lure
to take firm hold of or act effectively upon
to grip or hold (a workpiece) with a tool or chuck
(of a screw, thread, etc) to cut into or grip (an object, material, etc)
(tr) informal to annoy or worrywhat's biting her?
(often passive) slang to cheat
(tr often foll by for) Australian and NZ slang to ask (for); scrounge from
bite off more than one can chew informal to attempt a task beyond one's capability
bite the bullet to face up to (pain, trouble, etc) with fortitude; be stoical
bite someone's head off to respond harshly and rudely (to)
bite the dust See dust (def. 11)
bite the hand that feeds one to repay kindness with injury or ingratitude
once bitten, twice shy after an unpleasant experience one is cautious in similar situations
put the bite on someone Australian slang to ask someone for money


the act of biting
a thing or amount bitten off
a wound, bruise, or sting inflicted by biting
angling an attempt by a fish to take the bait or lure
informal an incisive or penetrating effect or qualitythat's a question with a bite
a light meal; snack
a cutting, stinging, or smarting sensation
the depth of cut of a machine tool
the grip or hold applied by a tool or chuck to a workpiece
dentistry the angle or manner of contact between the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed naturally
the surface of a file or rasp with cutting teeth
the corrosive action of acid, as on a metal etching plate
Derived Formsbiter, noun

Word Origin for bite

Old English bītan; related to Latin findere to split, Sanskrit bhedati he splits

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

Word Origin and History for bit
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for bit




To cut, grip, or tear with the teeth.
To pierce the skin of with the teeth, fangs, or mouthparts.


The act of biting.
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.

Science definitions for bit



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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for bit


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.


The information in a digital computer is stored in the form of bits.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with bit


In addition to the idiom beginning with bit

  • bit by bit
  • bite off more than one can chew
  • bite one's nails
  • bite one's tongue
  • bite someone's head off
  • bite the bullet
  • bite the dust
  • bite the hand that feeds you

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


In addition to the idioms beginning with bite

  • bite off more than one can chew
  • bite one's nails
  • bite one's tongue
  • bite someone's head off
  • bite the bullet
  • bite the dust
  • bite the hand that feeds you

also see:

  • bark is worse than one's bite
  • put the bite on
  • sound bite

Also seebitten.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.