Where does bits and pieces come from?
Separately, bits and pieces have long named “small fragments” or “increments” in a range of phrases. In pieces, for instance, is found as early as the 13th century while by bits appears in the 16th century. Bits and pieces, however, emerges at least by the 19th century for “various personal articles” or “fragments” of some material. Its use swelled in the 20th century.
The phrase follows a well-established pattern in the English language to convey things small and sundry: odds and ends, nooks and crannies, dribs and drabs, bits and pieces. The construction features an expressive redundancy that serves to emphasize the smallness of the matter.
Google Trends also shows an annual spike in popularity for bits and pieces in the months of November and December, which may be attributed to particular holiday food dishes with the phrase bits and pieces in the name, particularly a Midwestern cheese ball dish with various bits and pieces of nuts and herbs.
Examples of bits and pieces
Who uses bits and pieces?
Bits and pieces is widespread in the English language, used in speech and writing and featured in book, film, and song titles. However, British English often uses similar phrases, bits and bobs or bits and bats.
There are a few particular ways bits and pieces is commonly used. One way is bits and pieces of a material (i.e., tiny parts of it). Here, it especially appears in the phrase in/to bits and pieces to describe something that’s been smashed or shattered. Another way is to metaphorically extend the phrase to emotions (e.g., “I’m in bits and pieces after she left me.”) And, finally loving someone to bits and pieces is way of saying you love them “very much.”
Users also frequently use bits and pieces for something irregular, random, haphazard, or miscellaneous. For instance, “I only caught bits and pieces of what the public announcement was saying,” or “I did bits and pieces of freelance work for the company.”
This is not meant to be a formal definition of bits and pieces like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of bits and pieces that will help our users expand their word mastery.