[ bit-erz ]
/ ˈbɪt ərz /

noun (used with a plural verb)

a liquid, often an alcoholic liquor, in which bitter herbs or roots have steeped, used as a flavoring, especially in mixed drinks, or as a tonic.
  1. a liquid, usually alcoholic, impregnated with a bitter medicine, as gentian or quassia, used to increase the appetite or as a tonic.
  2. bitter medicinal substances in general, as quinine.

Origin of bitters

First recorded in 1705–15; bitter + -s3

Definition for bitters (2 of 2)

Origin of bitter

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

Related forms

Can be confused

bidder bitter Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for bitters

British Dictionary definitions for bitters (1 of 2)


/ (ˈbɪtəz) /

pl n

bitter-tasting spirits of varying alcoholic content flavoured with plant extracts
a similar liquid containing a bitter-tasting substance, used as a tonic to stimulate the appetite or improve digestion

British Dictionary definitions for bitters (2 of 2)

See also bitters

Derived Forms

bitterly, adverbbitterness, noun

Word Origin for bitter

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

Idioms and Phrases with bitters


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.