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bit·​ter·​sweet ˈbi-tər-ˌswēt How to pronounce bittersweet (audio)
: something that is bittersweet
especially : pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret
… the bittersweet of their long separation … Christopher Morley
: 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
: 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


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

Examples of bittersweet in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
The mood was all at once jubilant and a little bittersweet. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 1 Jan. 2024 Participants were asked about their emotional response to their favorite music and the researchers assigned four themes: energizing/activating, happy/cheerful, calming/relaxing, and moving/bittersweet. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 25 Oct. 2023 Jennifer Forman Orth/National Park Service The Oriental bittersweet was introduced as an ornamental plant and for erosion control, according to the National Invasive Species Information Center. Lindsay Crudele,, 26 July 2023 An anthology series — set in and around a compact backstreet Tokyo eatery, open from midnight to 7 a.m., where night owls from all walks of life occupy its U-shaped counter — offers short stories that tend to the bittersweet, but with sweetness most prominent. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 15 June 2023 Talk about bittersweet: Netflix has renewed Sweet Tooth for a third and final season. Emlyn Travis,, 3 May 2023 And maybe a little bittersweet. Creg Stephenson |, al, 19 Nov. 2022 Labor Day can feel a little bittersweet. Maggie Horton, Country Living, 5 Sep. 2022 One more memory, this one bittersweet. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, 15 Jan. 2021
Melting dark brown sugar with a splash of water creates the thick, bittersweet foundation of a braising liquid that reduces to syrupy perfection while the pork belly becomes shreddably tender and moist. Inés Anguiano, Bon Appétit, 13 Feb. 2024 Melissa’s Chocolate Dessert Sauce Rich, balanced and packed with bittersweet chocolate flavor, this syrup deserves space in the fridge. Jolene Thym, The Mercury News, 9 Feb. 2024 Family members are sharing bittersweet feelings about this big game with their social media followers. Lisa Gutierrez, Kansas City Star, 9 Feb. 2024 Poland’s major public broadcaster, TVP, is breaking new ground by heading its European Film Market slate with a bittersweet comedy about two middle-aged women. Nick Holdsworth, Variety, 8 Feb. 2024 Our version of torta caprese contains melted butter and bittersweet chocolate as well as vanilla, cocoa powder, and salt that boost the chocolate’s complexity. Steve Dunn, Chicago Tribune, 31 Jan. 2024 There was a bittersweet symmetry to be found in learning of the death of Norman Jewison just a day before the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 23 Jan. 2024 The Spirit of Milano, our homage to the great Italian bittersweet aperitivos, is the star player of cocktails such as the Spritz, the Boulevardier and so many more. Jeff Burkhart, The Mercury News, 31 Jan. 2024 The stage version also eschews the movie’s famously bleak ending, instead concluding on a note of bittersweet hope. Thomas Floyd, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'bittersweet.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near bittersweet

Cite this Entry

“Bittersweet.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
bit·​ter·​sweet ˈbit-ər-ˌswēt How to pronounce bittersweet (audio)
: a poisonous woody vine of the nightshade family with purple flowers and oval reddish orange berries
: a North American woody vine with yellow seedcases that open when ripe to show the scarlet seed covers


2 of 2 adjective
: being both bitter and sweet
a bittersweet story

Medical Definition


bit·​ter·​sweet ˈbit-ər-ˌswēt, ˌbit-ər-ˈ How to pronounce bittersweet (audio)
: a sprawling poisonous weedy nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) with purple flowers and oval reddish orange berries that is the source of dulcamara

More from Merriam-Webster on bittersweet

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