bit

1 of 4

noun (1)

1
a(1)
: the biting or cutting edge or part of a tool
(2)
: a replaceable part of a compound tool that actually performs the function (such as drilling or boring) for which the whole tool is designed
put a new bit in the drill
used a 1/4 inch bit to make the hole
b
bits plural : the jaws (see jaw entry 1 sense 2a) of tongs or pincers
2
: something bitten or held with the teeth:
a
: the usually steel part of a bridle inserted in the mouth of a horse
b
: the rimmed mouth end on the stem of a pipe or cigar holder
3
: something that curbs or restrains
4
: the part of a key that enters the lock and acts on the bolt and tumblers (see tumbler sense 3a)

Illustration of bit

Illustration of bit
  • 1curb
  • 2 snaffle

bit

2 of 4

verb

bitted; bitting

transitive verb

1
a
: to put part of a bridle in the mouth of (a horse) : to put a bit (see bit entry 1 sense 2a) in the mouth of (a horse)
b
: to control as if with a bit
2
: to form a bit (see bit entry 1 sense 4) on (a key)

bit

3 of 4

noun (2)

plural bits
1
: a small quantity of food
especially : a small delicacy
2
a
: a small piece or quantity of some material thing
broken bits of glass
picking bits of lint off her sweater
b(1)
British : a coin of a specified small denomination
a threepenny bit
(2)
: a unit of value equal to ¹/₈ of a U.S. dollar (12 ¹/₂ cents)
used only of even multiples
four bits

Note: No coin was ever issued in this amount.

see also two bits sense 1
3
: something small or unimportant of its kind: such as
a
: a brief period : while
wait a bit longer
see also a bit, a little bit
b
: an indefinite usually small degree, extent, or amount
a bit of a rascal
every bit as powerful
a bit too sweet
see also a bit, a bit much, a little bit
c theater
(1)
: a small part usually with spoken lines in a theatrical performance
a bit part
bit players
(2)
: a usually short theatrical routine
a corny comedy bit
4
: the aggregate of items, situations, or activities appropriate to a given style, genre, or role
rejected the whole bit about love-marriage-motherhoodVance Packard

bit

4 of 4

noun (3)

1
computers : a unit of computer information equivalent to the result of a choice between two alternatives (such as yes or no, on or off)
2
computers : the physical representation of a bit by an electrical pulse, a magnetized spot, or a hole whose presence or absence indicates data
Phrases
bit by bit
: by degrees : little by little
getting better bit by bit
to bits
: totally, thoroughly
thrilled to bits

Examples of bit in a Sentence

Noun (2) she left only a bit of the broccoli on her plate bits of cookie scattered on the table I'll have only a bit of food right now this will only take a bit known for a comedic bit in which she portrayed a very nervous student driver wielding silver trays, the servers offered partygoers a variety of exotic-looking bits
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Mutants are feared and persecuted just for being born a little bit different — in abilities and sometimes also in appearance. Tracy Brown, Los Angeles Times, 15 May 2024 Lev-Ram: Talk a little bit more about the reception internally at the bank to you and your co-founders coming in. Fortune Editors, Fortune, 15 May 2024 That aspect of it took a little bit longer, but the main record only took about 10 days. Kory Grow, Rolling Stone, 15 May 2024 Is Reba McEntire running a little behind Bob Hope, as an awards-show-hosting perennial… or actually a little bit ahead? Chris Willman, Variety, 15 May 2024 This 15-year-old bourbon was somehow still very drinkable, although a little bit of water or a large ice cube is a good way to go while still revealing deep notes of oak, spice, vanilla, and dark stone fruit. Jonah Flicker, Robb Report, 15 May 2024 The same can be said for the brilliant minds who make every new bit of music software even more amazing. Michael Gallant, Billboard, 15 May 2024 Plus, prior to their bit, chief marketing officer Marian Lee announced that there would be no free-for-all on branding. Mikey O'Connell, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 May 2024 Known best for barbecue and Tex-Mex, the Austin food scene just got a little bit fancier. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 2 May 2024
Verb
Noem’s spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether the dog actually bit her or just tried to do so, or whether Noem had to seek medical treatment. Heather Hollingsworth, Fortune, 3 May 2024 The New York Times report mentions nothing about Sora, or actual YouTube bits themselves. Maxwell Zeff / Gizmodo, Quartz, 8 Apr. 2024 The lion charged Wyatt and bit his face while taking him to the ground before attacking Taylen. Chris Biderman, Sacramento Bee, 26 Mar. 2024 Identify the snake: If possible, try to identify the species of rattlesnake that bit the victim. The Arizona Republic, 23 Mar. 2024 His chest still bears a deep indentation from something that bit him in his first week. Katharine Houreld, Washington Post, 6 Jan. 2024 Communication errors bit them numerous times last week at Baltimore. Chris Perkins, Sun Sentinel, 4 Jan. 2024 The escalating tensions have been well documented in town Facebook groups and the local paper: In 2022, neighbors were aghast when a resident from the Pleasantville campus stole a chicken from a coop in a nearby backyard and bit its head off. Abigail Kramer, ProPublica, 3 Jan. 2024 The bear charged and bit the man several times, according to the sheriff's office. Emily Mae Czachor, CBS News, 13 Dec. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bit.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English bite, bit "bite of an animal, cutting edge, point, mouthpiece of a bridle," going back to Old English bite "bite of an animal, cut from a weapon," going back to Germanic *biti- (whence Old Saxon biti "bite, sting," Old High German biz [gebiz "mouthpiece of a bridle"], Old Norse bit), noun derivative from the base of *bītan- "to bite" — more at bite entry 1

Verb

derivative of bit entry 1

Noun (2)

Middle English bite, bit "mouthful of food, morsel," going back to Old English bita, bite, going back to Germanic *bitan- (whence Middle Dutch bete "morsel," Old High German bizzo, Old Norse biti), noun derivative from the base of *bītan- "to bite" — more at bite entry 1

Noun (3)

from binary digit

Note: The term bit was introduced into general circulation by Claude shannon in "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," Bell System Technical Journal, vol. 27, July, 1948, p. 380: "The choice of a logarithmic base corresponds to the choice of a unit for measuring information. If the base 2 is used the resulting units may be called binary digits, or more briefly bits, a word suggested by J.W. Tukey." The American mathematician John W. Tukey (1915-2000) had used the word in a Bell Labs memorandum, "Sequential Conversion of Continuous Data to Digital Data," dated January 9, 1947. Tukey employed bit as a counterpart in a binary system to digit in the decimal system. For details see "The Origin of Bit" in the "Anecdotes" section of Annals of the History of Computing, vol 6, no. 2 (April, 1984), pp. 152-55.

First Known Use

Noun (1)

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Verb

1583, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun (2)

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

1948, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of bit was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near bit

Cite this Entry

“Bit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bit. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

bit

1 of 3 noun
1
: the usually metal bar attached to a bridle and put in the mouth of a horse
2
: the biting or cutting edge or part of a tool
the drill bit

bit

2 of 3 noun
1
: a small piece or amount
2
: a short time
rest a bit

bit

3 of 3 noun
1
: a unit of computer information that represents the selection of one of two possible choices (as yes or no, on or off)
2
: something (as an electrical pulse, a magnetized spot, or a punched hole) that physically represents a bit
Etymology

Noun

Old English bite "act of biting"

Noun

earlier bit "small piece of food," from Old English bita (same meaning)

Noun

binary digit

More from Merriam-Webster on bit

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