[ bit-er ]
See synonyms for: bitterbitteredbitteringbitters on

adjective,bit·ter·er, bit·ter·est.
  1. having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes.

  2. producing one of the four basic taste sensations; not sour, sweet, or salt.

  1. hard to bear; grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow.

  2. causing pain; piercing; stinging: a bitter chill.

  3. characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred.

  4. hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson.

  5. resentful or cynical: bitter words.

  1. that which is bitter; bitterness: Learn to take the bitter with the sweet.

  2. British. a very dry ale having a strong taste of hops.

verb (used with object)
  1. to make bitter: herbs employed to bitter vermouth.

  1. extremely; very; exceedingly: a bitter cold night.

Origin of bitter

First recorded before 1000; Middle English, Old English biter; cognate with German bitter, Old Norse bitr, Gothic baitrs; akin to bite

Other words for bitter

Other words from bitter

  • bit·ter·ish, adjective
  • bit·ter·ly, adverb
  • bit·ter·ness, noun
  • non·bit·ter, adjective
  • o·ver·bit·ter, adjective
  • over·bit·ter·ly, adverb
  • un·bit·ter, adjective

Words that may be confused with bitter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use bitter in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bitter


/ (ˈbɪtə) /

  1. having or denoting an unpalatable harsh taste, as the peel of an orange or coffee dregs: Compare sour (def. 1)

  2. showing or caused by strong unrelenting hostility or resentment: he was still bitter about the divorce

  1. difficult or unpleasant to accept or admit: a bitter blow

  2. cutting; sarcastic: bitter words

  3. bitingly cold: a bitter night

  1. very; extremely (esp in the phrase bitter cold)

  1. a thing that is bitter

  2. British beer with a high hop content, with a slightly bitter taste

  1. to make or become bitter

Origin of bitter

Old English biter; related to bītan to bite

Derived forms of bitter

  • bitterly, adverb
  • bitterness, noun

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with bitter


In addition to the idioms beginning with bitter

  • bitter end
  • bitter pill to swallow

also see:

  • take the bitter with the sweet

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