bit·​ter·​sweet | \ ˈbi-tər-ˌswēt How to pronounce bittersweet (audio) \

Definition of bittersweet

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that is bittersweet especially : pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret … the bittersweet of their long separation … — Christopher Morley
2 botany
a : a poisonous Eurasian woody vine (Solanum dulcamara) of the nightshade family that has purple flowers and oval reddish berries and is naturalized (see naturalize sense 4) in North America
b : a North American poisonous woody vine (Celastrus scandens) of the staff-tree family having clusters of small greenish flowers succeeded by yellow capsules (see capsule entry 1 sense 2a) that open when ripe and disclose the scarlet aril



Definition of bittersweet (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : being at once bitter and sweet especially : pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret a bittersweet ballad bittersweet memories
2 : of or relating to a prepared chocolate containing little sugar bittersweet chocolate chips

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Other Words from bittersweet


bittersweetly adverb
bittersweetness noun

Examples of bittersweet in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Bei Bei quickly became a favorite on the zoo’s Panda Cam, and fans bid a bittersweet farewell to the cub online with the hashtag #byebyebeibei. Washington Post, "US-born Bei Bei settles into new home at Chinese panda base," 22 Nov. 2019 The fenced-in area where the goats worked covers about a quarter-acre that’s overrun with bittersweet as well as other invasives: multiflora rose, bush honeysuckle and garlic mustard. Morgan Greene,, "‘What we need is more goats’: How Thelma and her sister Louise are helping to protect Indiana Dunes National Park," 25 Oct. 2019 Asiatic bittersweet, found throughout the park, is a particularly bad one, Plath said. Morgan Greene,, "‘What we need is more goats’: How Thelma and her sister Louise are helping to protect Indiana Dunes National Park," 25 Oct. 2019 Others who were hoping to see Louis-Dreyfus victorious found the moment bittersweet. Mahita Gajanan, Time, "Phoebe Waller-Bridge Is as Surprised as Everyone That She Won the Emmy for Best Actress in a Comedy," 23 Sep. 2019 While Colombia celebrated Bernal, the millions of French fans who had lined the roads through east, central and southern France, and up into the thinning air of the Pyrenees and Alps, were ruing a bittersweet Tour. New York Times, "Egan Bernal Finishes Off Tour de France Victory," 28 July 2019 Either way, summer flings and the subsequent bittersweet falls are practically a tradition of romantic coming of age. Author: Wayne And Wanda, Anchorage Daily News, "Should I ask my summer fling to ditch his seasonal lifestyle and stay in Alaska?," 17 Aug. 2019 And David Fennell, the band teacher at nearby Madison Middle School, retired after 40 years in the classroom, more than half of them spent in the Vista school district. Scott, 59, and Fennell, 64, both describe their retirements as bittersweet. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Two retiring Vista teachers reflect on a lifetime in the arts," 9 June 2019 The moment was bittersweet: one-year-old Abduweli is Meripet's only child in Turkey. Yanan Wang And Dake Kang, Fox News, "Empty places at the table: Uighur children missing in China," 20 Sep. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective An emotional performance on The Voice has brought up some bittersweet memories for Blake Shelton. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Blake Shelton Made a Rare Comment About His Late Father on ‘The Voice'," 23 Nov. 2019 Knowing that its time was finite made this final season—and the entire run—especially bittersweet, and hence that much more meaningful, to its fans. Ars Technica, "Review: It’s a wonderful afterlife in The Good Place’s bittersweet finale," 3 Feb. 2020 Chambers' nomination is a little bittersweet, as the singer did a farewell concert in Houston last month. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Trudy Lynn, Annika Chambers nominated for blues awards," 10 Jan. 2020 On a bittersweet note, the Season 5 premiere will feature an appearance by Robert Forster, who died in October. Bill Keveney, USA TODAY, "'Better Call Saul' is renewed for a final season: Will Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul appear?," 18 Jan. 2020 The subjects vary, but almost without exception the stories are quirky yet resonant, emotional and relatable, with a sweet (or occasionally slightly bittersweet) payoff. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Little America' brings a warm look at immigrant stories to Apple TV+," 16 Jan. 2020 Three forms of chocolate — powder, bittersweet and semisweet — create an incredible flavor combination hitting all the rich notes chocolate can give you. Washington Post, "5 hot chocolate recipes to thaw your ice-cold heart," 16 Jan. 2020 Their tender flourless chocolate cake is wrapped around bittersweet truffle filling, then coated with fudge frosting and sprinkled with gold dust. Kate Krader,, "The holiday foods you love to hate can actually be delicious," 9 Dec. 2019 But her family and friends are too thinly sketched to matter, even as Frankie winds toward its bittersweet conclusion; by the time the finale arrives, the movie hasn’t built enough momentum. David Sims, The Atlantic, "Frankie Is a Little Too Sleepy for Its Own Good," 25 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bittersweet.' 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 bittersweet


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for bittersweet

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The first known use of bittersweet was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

23 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Bittersweet.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for bittersweet



English Language Learners Definition of bittersweet

: having both bitter and sweet flavors
: combining sadness and happiness


bit·​ter·​sweet | \ ˈbi-tər-ˌswēt How to pronounce bittersweet (audio) \

Kids Definition of bittersweet

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a poisonous vine originally of Europe and Asia with purple flowers and red berries
2 : a poisonous North American woody climbing plant with orange seed capsules that open when ripe to reveal red seeds



Kids Definition of bittersweet (Entry 2 of 2)

: being partly bitter or sad and partly sweet or happy He had bittersweet memories of summer camp.


bit·​ter·​sweet | \ ˈbit-ər-ˌswēt, ˌbit-ər-ˈ How to pronounce bittersweet (audio) \

Medical Definition of bittersweet

: a sprawling poisonous weedy nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) with purple flowers and oval reddish orange berries that is the source of dulcamara

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More from Merriam-Webster on bittersweet

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bittersweet

Spanish Central: Translation of bittersweet

Nglish: Translation of bittersweet for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about bittersweet

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