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

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 The heart of this piece is its arrival at a few bars of repose near the end of the last movement, a moment of bittersweet, heart-stopping suspension. Marcus Overton,, "San Diego Symphony blazes through Shostakovich as Jahja Ling debuts as Conductor Laureate," 21 Apr. 2018 Still, the unsurprising ending is a little bittersweet. Dieter Bohn, The Verge, "Google’s Inbox app is shutting down in March 2019," 12 Sep. 2018 For Gulati, too, Wednesday’s win allowed him to come full circle from the Qatar defeat—though not without its own tinges of bittersweet. Grant Wahl,, "World Cup 2026 Vote Provides the Jolt U.S. Soccer Sorely Needed," 13 June 2018 Several students said the experience of graduating may be one of the most challenging and bittersweet of their four-year journey. Alejandra Reyes-velarde,, "Glendale High graduates begin their futures with words of wisdom," 8 June 2018 Build the backbone To make the actual wreath frame, use willow or a vine like wisteria, grape or bittersweet. Molly Marquand, Good Housekeeping, "A Step-By-Step Guide To Creating Your Own Foraged Evergreen Wreath," 8 Dec. 2017 The novel itself is every bit as powerful and atmospheric and addictively page-turning as all the ones that came before it, but the final pages are extra bittersweet because there will be no more. Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Greeks Bearing Gifts' will be the last in the popular 'Bernie Gunther' series begun in Nazi Germany," 5 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Christina Anstead knew that unloading her family home after splitting from husband Tarek El Moussa would be bittersweet. Rachel Desantis,, "Christina Anstead Says 'Heartbreaking' Goodbye to Home She Shared with Ex Tarek El Moussa," 6 June 2019 Emilia Clarke also had a bittersweet moment at the table read, sharing a loving look with Iain Glen when his character, Jorah Mormont, meets his end. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke's Reactions to Daenerys's Death Are Too Much," 27 May 2019 Following a week in the life of a struggling musician in New York, this is a bittersweet blend of stirring songs (yes, Oscar Isaac can also sing) and dry, dark humor. Emma Dibdin And Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "16 Amazon Prime Video Movies to Stream on Your Next Lazy Night In," 21 May 2019 Late fall can be a bittersweet time of year, especially in rural Texas. Beth Dreher, Woman's Day, "Meet the Woman Who Stands In at LGBTQ Weddings," 4 May 2019 For most of us, our teen crushes live on only as bittersweet memories. Jim Stingl, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stingl: Couple who shared an 8th-grade crush reunited 71 years later when he moves into her building," 8 June 2018 The bittersweet festivities took place in Hood River, OR, at a historic bank building, which was transformed into a princess's castle for the day. Sasha Henriques, Woman's Day, "5-Year-Old with Terminal Cancer Has a Birthday Party, Wedding and Prom All At Once," 4 Aug. 2015 With layers of graham crackers, bittersweet chocolate, and a billowy filling made of heavy cream, meringue and coconut, these dreamy bars will become your new campfire favorite. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Frozen S'mores," 14 Mar. 2019 But if its ending is bittersweet, Capote’s story underscores a basic fact of the holiday. Danny Heitman, WSJ, "An Ode to Holiday Companionship," 21 Dec. 2018

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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Last Updated

15 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for bittersweet

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

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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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having a desire to acquire more things

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