[ adjective bit-er-sweet, bit-er-sweet; noun bit-er-sweet ]
/ adjective ˌbɪt ərˈswit, ˈbɪt ərˌswit; noun ˈbɪt ərˌswit /
Save This Word!

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.
There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?

Origin of bittersweet

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400; see origin at bitter, sweet

OTHER WORDS FROM bittersweet

bit·ter·sweet·ly, adverbbit·ter·sweet·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does bittersweet mean?

Bittersweet describes something that tastes both harsh or acrid and sugary, such as a chocolate with less sugar, intended for baking into something sweet, like a cake.

Bittersweet also describes something that is both pleasant and regretful, such as graduating from high school. You’re excited about what comes after high school, but you’ll miss seeing your friends everyday. Graduation is a bittersweet moment.

Bittersweet is another name for Solanum dulcamara, or woody nightshade, a creeping, vine-like plant that can be poisonous in large quantities.

Bittersweet could also refer to any climbing plant of the genus Celastrus.

Example: I take just a little sugar in my coffee because I like a bittersweet taste.

Where does bittersweet come from?

The first records of the term bittersweet come from the 1300s. It is a Middle English term that combines the words bitter and sweet. Bitter comes from the Gothic baitrs, and sweet comes from the Latin suāvis, meaning “pleasant.” 

The literal and figurative uses of bittersweet are used almost equally. Several popular fruits are bittersweet, including cranberries, sour cherries, blackberries, Granny Smith apples, and blueberries. (We like ours dipped in bittersweet chocolate!)

The figurative bittersweet often describes an event or a memory of an event that is both happy and sad. Often when something comes to an end, such as a show, production, career, or anything that has a definite beginning and end, you might feel that the ending is bittersweet because it is sad that it is ending but happy because it had a successful run.

Did you know … ?

What are some other forms related to bittersweet?

  • bittersweetly (adverb)
  • bittersweetness (noun)

What are some synonyms for bittersweet?

What are some words that share a root or word element with bittersweet

What are some words that often get used in discussing bittersweet?

How is bittersweet used in real life?

Bittersweet is most often used to describe a feeling or flavor.

Try using bittersweet!

Is bittersweet used correctly in the following sentence?

Leaving for camp is always bittersweet because I know I’ll miss my bed, but I also love nature.

How to use bittersweet in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for bittersweet

/ (ˈbɪtəˌswiːt) /

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