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 bitter (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.

Other Words from bitter


bitterish \ ˈbi-​tə-​rish How to pronounce bitter (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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective In March, former American Idol winner turned mega-star and talk show host Kelly Clarkson settled her bitter divorce from Brandon Blackstock. Legal Entertainment, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2022 The petition comes amid a bitter divorce battle between Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock. NBC News, 19 Feb. 2022 In Pennsylvania’s open Senate race, Mr. Trump backed Sean Parnell, who withdrew after a bitter custody battle with his estranged wife. New York Times, 13 Feb. 2022 The very public feud has its roots in what has become a bitter battle over how to teach math to K-12 students in California, and specifically whether to offer Algebra 1 in middle schools. Jill Tucker, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Apr. 2022 Orozco doesn’t feel bitter about the fact that her video was among the ones removed. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 31 Mar. 2022 The 13th-seeded Zips led most of the way in a bitter battle with fourth-seeded UCLA in an NCAA Tournament East Regional game at the Moda Center before losing 57-53. Scooby Axson, USA TODAY, 18 Mar. 2022 The valuation is near the low-water mark on bonds set by serial defaulter Argentina, which took 15 years to repay creditors after a bitter legal battle with hedge funds... James Freeman, WSJ, 16 Mar. 2022 But Long is not the typical transfer, bitter about not getting enough playing time. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, 21 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun In contrast, landing on cards with odd numbers resulted in a bitter-tasting quinine. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 5 May 2022 The tonic became a popular bitter in the Caribbean and Europe soon after Linnaeus named the plant, and the bark of the plant became a major Suriname export. Uwagbale Edward-ekpu, Quartz, 25 Jan. 2022 As far back as the 18th century, apothecaries were known to sweeten their bitter-tasting herbal remedies with sugar and prescribe sugar candy to treat ailments. Anna Haines, Forbes, 28 Oct. 2021 It is typically sold as a bitter-tasting powder, which can be made into a tea or swallowed in capsules. Maia Szalavitz, Scientific American, 12 Aug. 2021 Other favorite ingredients that bring out the brashness include angelica, wormwood, cinchona bark, licorice, green cardamom, mint, and everyone’s favorite Christmas bitter, myrrh. Beth Segal, cleveland, 28 May 2021 Wexford Irish Style Cream Ale has a profile similar to an English bitter, but with less bitterness and a greater malt presence. Michael Agnew, Star Tribune, 10 Mar. 2021 Monarchs have evolved to withstand a certain level of that toxin, storing it away in their bodies as a bitter-tasting deterrent to potential predators, including parasites. Farah Eltohamy, Animals, 15 Dec. 2020 While producing similar effects to that of bitter-tasting apple cider vinegar or saccharine kombucha, Pedre notes the equal parts unique and flavorful combinations—including apple cinnamon and turmeric ginger—as well as the low sugar content. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 25 Nov. 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, 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,, 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, 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,, 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, 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, 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,, 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,, 1 Mar. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Shake out every last drop from your previous pot to keep the next round from turning bitter. Max Falkowitz, Bon Appétit, 5 May 2022 Two-thirds of 137 participants in the Phase 2 trial received AMX0035, a bitter-tasting powder mixed with water to be drunk or ingested through a feeding tube twice daily. New York Times, 30 Mar. 2022 The ingredients for — and method of making — the crisp, bright and bitter-leaning drink lie directly in its name. Rebekah Peppler, Los Angeles Times, 25 Mar. 2022 Wormwood is a European plant that yields a bitter-tasting oil but contains neither worm nor wood. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 June 2021 The benefit to squeezers is more control over the juicing process, so your end result should be pure, delicious juice with no bitter-tasting peel oil. Laura Duerr,, 13 Mar. 2021 Tonic is in another category altogether and best left for your G&Ts; the bitter-tasting quinine is usually balanced by a fair amount of sugar, and the more pronounced flavor can alter your cocktail’s taste. Adrienne Donica, Popular Mechanics, 11 July 2020 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, 22 Jan. 2020 See More

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.

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

Learn More About bitter

Time Traveler for bitter

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near bitter

bitten-leaf disease


bitter almond

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Statistics for bitter

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bitter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for bitter


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

More from Merriam-Webster on bitter

Nglish: Translation of bitter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bitter for Arabic Speakers


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