bit·​ter | \ ˈbi-tər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \

Definition of bitter

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : being, inducing, or marked by the one of the five basic taste sensations that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, and often disagreeable and characteristic of citrus peels, unsweetened cocoa, black coffee, mature leafy greens (such as kale or mustard), or ale The pill left a bitter taste in my mouth. bitter beer bitter chocolates — compare salty entry 1 sense 1b, sour entry 1 sense 1, sweet entry 1, umami entry 2 sense 1
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)

1a : bitter quality … stepping outside your comfort zone and taking the bitter with the sweet.— James Poniewoziks
b : the taste sensation that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, and often disagreeable and is characteristic of citrus peels, unsweetened cocoa, black coffee, mature leafy greens (such as kale or mustard), or ale — compare salty entry 2, sour entry 2 sense 1b, sweet entry 3 sense 2, umami entry 1
2a bitters\ ˈbi-​tərz How to pronounce bitters (audio) \ 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 How to pronounce bitterish (audio) \ adjective
bitterly adverb
bitterness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for bitter

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of bitter in a Sentence

Adjective 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. Noun The cocktail recipe called for a dash of bitters. a good selection of bitters
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The ethanol used to make hand sanitizers is denatured alcohol, made unfit for human consumption by adding compounds such as denatonium benzoate, a very bitter substance with awful taste. Lorena Villanueva-almanza, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana distilleries step up to produce hand sanitizer during coronavirus pandemic," 2 July 2020 The addition of coffee to a classic chocolate icebox pie gives the finished dessert a complex and slightly bitter edge. Paul Stephen,, "Recipe: Chocolate Coffee Icebox Pie," 1 July 2020 There was a six-year break between seasons 8 and 9, and two years between 9 and 10, the latter of which wrapped up earlier this year with David's spite store burning down and his bitter rival moving in next door. Dan Snierson,, "Despite Larry David's wishes, HBO renews Curb Your Enthusiasm for season 11," 30 June 2020 On the other hand, a dark-roast coffee is brewed from beans roasted at a higher temperature for a longer time, which takes away those bright flavors and acidity and instead gives it a bitter taste. Kai Burkhardt, CNN Underscored, "We tried gold coffee, and loved its unexpected flavor," 30 June 2020 Many years and countless accidents later, the ditches—too expensive to fix—were still there, and people were still bitter about them. Larissa Macfarquhar, The New Yorker, "How Prosperity Transformed the Falklands," 29 June 2020 Downing Street’s thinking said Johnson had agreed to support his name for the top job at NATO after Sedwill lost a bitter power struggle with Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s top adviser. Rob Crilly, Washington Examiner, "Boris Johnson wants ousted civil service chief to get top job at NATO," 29 June 2020 For sports, where competition is its lifeblood and what captivates billions to be active across the world, the novel coronavirus is the most bitter, ruthless, hard-nosed opponent that it's ever faced. Briar Napier, The Arizona Republic, "Phoenix Rising GM: No perfect way to return to sports," 27 June 2020 The show was an unusual theater piece, eschewing dialogue and plot and letting the songs — alternately comic, nostalgic, sorrowful, and bitter — carry the audience through an emotional gamut. Neil Genzlinger,, "Elly Stone, 93, distinctive singer in ‘Jacques Brel’ revue, dies," 27 June 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Try a Bitter Giuseppe, with sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a slice of lemon or splash of lemon juice. Dave Clark,, "Guest TML: Voluntary workouts present another challenge for athletes and their loved ones," 29 May 2020 The Jingle Bow serves between two and four people and includes multiple types of rum, apple brandy, tropical fruit juices, bitters and maple syrup. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Love tiki cocktails and Christmas? Don't miss this pop up at one of Phoenix's best bars," 12 Dec. 2019 Tourists enjoyed a Venetian Spritz — a colorful aperitif with an Italian bitter and Prosecco — as the waters rose. Washington Post, "3rd record tide enters Venice as Italy hit with snow, rain," 18 Nov. 2019 Tourists enjoyed a Venetian Spritz — a colorful aperitif with an Italian bitter and Prosecco — as the waters rose. Anchorage Daily News, "Time for hip waders: Venice sees record 3rd exceptional tide," 17 Nov. 2019 Tourists enjoyed a Venetian Spritz — a colorful aperitif with an Italian bitter and Prosecco — as the waters rose. Colleen Barry And Luca Bruno,, "Third record tide enters Venice as Italy hit with snow and rain," 17 Nov. 2019 The Red Velvet, for example, channels the classic cake with St. George Spiced Pear Brandy, coffee liqueur, cherry-chocolate syrup, chocolate bitters and a beet-almond spuma on top for creaminess. Janelle Bitker,, "Chris Pastena gets a second chance with Tribune Tavern reopening in Oakland," 13 Sep. 2019 The kits might include some limited-edition bitters; the labor-intensive syrups for the cocktails are made at the bar. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The show goes on for some food and drink classes, but now online," 6 May 2020 One version is made with barrel-aged Hornitos Black tequila ($11); another combines tequila and mezcal and is finished with mole cocktail bitters ($12). Eric Velasco, al, "Sol y Luna restaurant reopens, revives favorite dishes," 4 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most Beach Club beers, like Mango Colada with coconut and lime, have minimal amounts of bittering hops. Eric Velasco, al, "Local breweries focus on seasonal brews for spring," 23 Apr. 2020 This grape is extremely approachable, with lots of fruit flavor and balanced dryness, due to the low tannins, which are the drying or bittering agent in many wines. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: The good and bad from the UC Bearcats' opening loss to Ohio State," 7 Nov. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Once the weather starts getting hot, your celery will start producing seeds and turn bitter, much the way that lettuce bolts in the heat. Jeanette Marantosstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "Growing your own celery is easier than you think," 22 Jan. 2020

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 1a


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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Time Traveler for bitter

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for bitter

Last Updated

4 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bitter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for bitter


How to pronounce bitter (audio)

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)

: a bitter alcoholic liquid that is used especially in mixed drinks
British : a type of beer that has a slightly bitter flavor


bit·​ter | \ ˈbi-tər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \
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


bit·​ter | \ ˈbit-ər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \

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 entry 2 sense 2, sour entry 1, sweet entry 1

Other Words from bitter

bitterness noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on bitter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for bitter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bitter

Spanish Central: Translation of bitter

Nglish: Translation of bitter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bitter for Arabic Speakers

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