bitter melon


Definition of bitter melon

: an herbaceous annual vine (Momordica charantia of the family Cucurbitaceae) native to the Old World tropics but widely naturalized that has oblong, warty, bitter fruits which are used as vegetables usually while green and immature A warm weather crop, bitter melon should be seeded six inches apart after all danger of frost—grow it along a fence or trellis.— Lynda D. Gutowski, New York Times, 24 May 1981 also : the fruit Bitter melon darkens and becomes stronger in flavor as it matures, so one is advised to choose younger, lighter gourds. — Nina Simonds, Gourmet, July 1980 There, as city traffic roared up North Broad Street last summer, they quietly cultivated organic bitter melon, which looks like a warty cucumber and is a mainstay of Asian cuisine … — Virginia A. Smith, Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 Feb. 2011

Note: Both the plant and its fruit are also called balsam apple, balsam pear, bitter gourd, (India) karela, and (Philippines) ampalaya.

Love words?

You must — there are over 200,000 words in our free online dictionary, but you are looking for one that’s only in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary.

Start your free trial today and get unlimited access to America's largest dictionary, with:

  • More than 250,000 words that aren't in our free dictionary
  • Expanded definitions, etymologies, and usage notes
  • Advanced search features
  • Ad free!

First Known Use of bitter melon

1894, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About bitter melon

Time Traveler for bitter melon

Time Traveler

The first known use of bitter melon was in 1894

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near bitter melon

bitterling test

bitter melon


See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for bitter melon

Cite this Entry

“Bitter melon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!