bit·​ter | \ˈbi-tər \

Definition of bitter 

(Entry 1 of 4)

1a : being or inducing the one of the four basic taste sensations that is peculiarly acrid acrid, astringent, or disagreeable and suggestive of an infusion of hops The pill leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. a bitter beer bitter dark chocolate — compare salt, sour, sweet

b : distasteful or distressing to the mind : galling a bitter sense of shame

2 : marked by intensity or severity:

a : accompanied by severe pain or suffering a bitter death

b : being relentlessly determined : vehement a bitter partisan

c : exhibiting intense animosity bitter enemies

d(1) : harshly reproachful bitter complaints

(2) : marked by cynicism and rancor bitter contempt was still bitter about not being chosen

e : intensely unpleasant especially in coldness or rawness a bitter wind

3 : caused by or expressive of severe pain, grief, or regret bitter tears



Definition of bitter (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : bitter (see bitter entry 1) quality

2a bitters plural : a usually alcoholic solution of bitter and often aromatic plant products used especially in preparing mixed drinks or as a mild tonic (see tonic entry 1 sense 1b)

b British : a very dry (see dry entry 1 sense 7b) heavily hopped ale


bittered; bittering; bitters

Definition of bitter (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

: to make bitter (see bitter entry 1) bittered ale



Definition of bitter (Entry 4 of 4)

: to an intense or severe degree : to a bitter (see bitter entry 1) degree It's bitter cold.

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Other Words from bitter


bitterish \ˈbi-​tə-​rish \ adjective
bitterly adverb
bitterness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for bitter

Synonyms: Adjective

acrid, acrimonious, embittered, hard, rancorous, resentful, sore

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of bitter in a Sentence


Cocoa beans have a bitter flavor. The medicine had a bitter aftertaste. We were struck by the bitter irony of the situation. His betrayal had made her bitter. She was still bitter toward her ex-husband. He's the bitterest man I know.


The cocktail recipe called for a dash of bitters. a good selection of bitters
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

On a bitter, gray Michigan morning in January, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina stood in her office, zipped up her robes over a pair of jeans and cowboy boots, and stepped through the door into Courtroom 5. Jason Schmidt, Glamour, "The Army of Women Who Took Down Larry Nassar," 30 Oct. 2018 With the first few episodes of Sara Haines and Michael Strahan's new program GMA Day beginning this week, The Chew fans seem to be feeling especially bitter right about now. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'GMA Day' Brought on Carla Hall for First Day and 'The Chew' Fans Lost Their Minds," 10 Sep. 2018 Conversely, disputes over credit for discoveries lead to bitter feuds and expensive lawsuits. David A. Shaywitz, WSJ, "‘The Breakthrough’ and ‘The Beautiful Cure’ Review: Spurring the Body to Fight Back," 13 Nov. 2018 The College of DuPage is suing former President Robert Breuder for $25 million, extending a yearslong, bitter feud between the board of trustees and the controversial administrator. Stacy St. Clair,, "College of DuPage sues former president for $25 million," 2 July 2018 GoodLife’s Special Sauce aims to pack plenty of hop flavor into each sip without being overly bitter. Nick Vadala,, "Philly's G. Love debuts 'Special Sauce' beer, but it isn't in Philly," 12 June 2018 For families like the Greenbackers, who have been dairy farming for generations, the decision to finally sell their animals can be bitter. Gregory B. Hladky,, "Connecticut Dairy Farmers Losing Hope, Selling Herds," 8 June 2018 There’s been some noise during the series that Caps fans are bitter Vegas is new to the game and so quick to do what’s taken their team over 40 years. Charlotte Wilder,, "Vegas and Washington Are More Similar Hockey Towns Than You Might Think," 4 June 2018 Murray, an eye surgeon who left the University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in 2012 following a bitter feud with a colleague who accused him of Medicare fraud, did not respond to requests for comment. Daniel Chang, miamiherald, "'They killed my kid.' Parents sue renowned doctor, hospital after children die of cancer | Miami Herald," 21 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Cheshire Cat: Champagne, orange bitters, butterfly pea extract, lemon juice. Kellie Hwang, azcentral, "Alice in Wonderland-themed bar Hatter and Hare now open in Phoenix," 12 July 2018 Untitled Supper Club Nikka Gin from Japan is the star of the Pacific Negroni, which also features Strega, Campari, amaro and orange bitters with a grapefruit garnish. Samantha Nelson,, "12 Chicago spots to get your Negroni on this week," 4 June 2018 Directions: Simply mix sugar, bitters, and water into a glass. The Editors, Marie Claire, "The Quick and Dirty Way to Make an Old Fashioned Cocktail," 29 Mar. 2017 Coffee makers are adding sparkling water to cold brews and, separately, experimenting with ingredients foreign to coffee, such as honeysuckle, sour cherries and bitters. Jennifer Maloney And Julie Jargon, WSJ, "Beyond Soda: How and Why Your Beverage Options Are Exploding," 26 Aug. 2018 The richness of the Sicilian amaro and brown sugar are countered by citrus, giving way to a hint of roasted coffee with a zippy finish of anise and aromatic bitters. The Editors, Marie Claire, "Holiday Punch Recipes That Will *Make* Your Next Party," 23 Nov. 2016 Martel VS, Plantation Pineapple Rum, banana, lime, and a bitters. Los Angeles Magazine, "FIRST LOOK: Menu Highlights From the Saved by the Max Pop-Up Diner," 30 Apr. 2018 Fee Brother’s rhubarb bitters is used to create this spring twist to a supper club favorite. Terri Milligan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Are you a ’barbarian? Let rhubarb’s tart-sweet flavor shine in more than pie," 13 Apr. 2018 The Woodford Reserve Spire is made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, lemonade, cranberry juice and bitters. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, "Throw the best Kentucky Derby party with tips from the guy who knows - 'America's CEO' Tim Laird," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

With all the ABVs and bittering units, barrel sizes and batch numbers, a beer bottle’s label can often read like the back of a baseball card. William Bostwick, WSJ, "Finally, Light Beers That Aren’t Light on Flavor," 8 Aug. 2018 The liqueur puts Indiana persimmons front and center while adding traditional bittering agents like rhubarb root and bitter orange peel, with cardamom and spearmint offering added complexity. Kenney Marlatt,, "Chicago spirit-maker Apologue delivers Midwestern flavors to cocktails," 30 May 2018 Another hop, typically grown in the Southern Hemisphere and used largely as a bittering agent, presented big, fruit flavors more like traditional West Coast hops. Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian, "The East Coast May Be On the Brink of a Hop Renaissance," 21 May 2018 Those are made employing the still somewhat suspicious American practice of adding bittering hops to the mix, but there's nothing aggressive or even untoward about them. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Irving Park’s Eris is a space of supermortal dimensions," 22 Mar. 2018 Night Shift built Nite Lite similarly, adding real corn (as opposed to corn syrup or rice syrup) and brewing with a touch of Saaz hops, the classic bittering agent in a Czech pilsner. Gary Dzen,, "Night Shift releasing Nite Lite, taking on the Buds and Millers of the world," 20 Mar. 2018 Two grants for a total of $135,154 went to Pennsylvania State University for projects involving hops, which are the bittering agent in beer. Harold Brubaker,, "Pa. awards $705K in PLCB grants to promote state's beer industry," 1 Mar. 2018 Ginger bitters counter the prominent elderflower notes, while the cider gives the glass a silky finish instead of boisterous bubbles. Rheanna Bellomo, Esquire, "5 Aprés-Ski Cocktails to Warm You Up After a Day on the Slopes," 16 Feb. 2018 CO2 Extract Hop Oil Hop-oil extract replaces bittering hop pellets added at the start of the boil. Matt Allyn, Popular Mechanics, "The New Science of Making Ridiculously Hoppy Beer," 18 Jan. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bitter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of bitter


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


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


12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bitter


Middle English, going back to Old English biter, going back to Germanic *bitra- (whence Old Saxon & Old High German bittar "acrid-tasting," Old Norse bitr "biting, sharp") and *baitra- (whence Gothic baitrs "sharp-tasting"), derivatives from the base of *bītan- "to bite" — more at bite entry 1


derivative of bitter entry 1


Middle English bittrin, going back to Old English biterian, derivative of biter bitter entry 1


Middle English bitter, bittere, going back to Old English bitere, derivative of biter bitter entry 1

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Statistics for bitter

Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for bitter

The first known use of bitter was before the 12th century

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More Definitions for bitter



English Language Learners Definition of bitter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having a strong and often unpleasant flavor that is the opposite of sweet

: causing painful emotions : felt or experienced in a strong and unpleasant way

: angry and unhappy because of unfair treatment



English Language Learners Definition of bitter (Entry 2 of 2)

bit*ters : a bitter alcoholic liquid that is used especially in mixed drinks

: a type of beer that has a slightly bitter flavor


bit·​ter | \ˈbi-tər \
bitterer; bitterest

Kids Definition of bitter

1 : sharp, biting, and unpleasant to the taste

2 : unhappy and angry because of unfair treatment She was bitter toward her spoiled sister.

3 : hard to put up with a bitter disappointment

4 : caused by anger, distress, or sorrow bitter tears

5 : very harsh or sharp : biting a bitter wind

Other Words from bitter

bitterly adverb wept bitterly
bitterness noun


bit·​ter | \ˈbit-ər \

Medical Definition of bitter 

: being or inducing the one of the four basic taste sensations that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, or disagreeable and suggestive of an infusion of hops — compare salt sense 2, sour, sweet

Other Words from bitter

bitterness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on bitter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bitter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bitter

Spanish Central: Translation of bitter

Nglish: Translation of bitter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bitter for Arabic Speakers

Comments on bitter

What made you want to look up bitter? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to make faulty or ineffective

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