bit·​ter·​sweet | \ˈbi-tər-ˌswēt \

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

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 Non-native invasives like autumn olive, multiflora rose, and bittersweet had spread throughout land that had once been pasture. Denise Coffey, Courant Community, "A Conservation Success Story: A Landowner's Perspective," 12 Dec. 2017 Her freshman year bookended with another chance to see her sister play, though this one was a shade bittersweet. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "With a different position (and school) than her talented sister, Oconomowoc's Alden leads volleyball team to state," 2 Nov. 2017 For the team behind the mission, losing their spacecraft is bittersweet: Many are sad that the mission is over but excited to see the groundbreaking science provided by unprecedented proximity to Saturn during the final dive. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "The Cassini mission is ending," 15 Sep. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album release was made a little bittersweet by the news of the passing of one of her idols, Aretha Franklin. Vogue, "How Ariana Grande Paid Tribute to Aretha Franklin," 17 Aug. 2018 Huerter’s decision ends an anxious and bittersweet few days of waiting for Maryland fans. Don Markus,, "Maryland's Kevin Huerter decides to stay in NBA draft, leaves Terps after sophomore year," 30 May 2018 And that is what makes this episode somewhat bittersweet. H.a. Hellyer, Time, "The Mali 'Spider-Man' Was Offered French Citizenship. What About the Muslim Migrants Who Aren't Superheroes?," 30 May 2018 Once again, though, rushed tempos pushed lyricism or brief and bittersweet melancholy out of the way. Marcus Overton,, "San Diego Symphony wraps up Masterworks series with an out-of-focus concert," 26 May 2018 Of those, no message comes through more loud and clear than the title track, a bittersweet goodbye that takes its inspiration from Harmon’s longtime romantic relationship with Arkansas teacher Kathleen Couch. Nancy Kruh,, "Trent Harmon Sings His Heartbreak, But His Relationship Isn't Over: 'It's Uncharted Territory'," 18 May 2018 The song's accompanying music video stars The Originals actor Danielle Campbell, and chronicles the sweet moments in a couple's life, which make the plot twist at the end of the clip that much more bittersweet. Ella Cerón, Teen Vogue, "Jesse McCartney on Using His Voice in New Music and the Timeless Magic of "Beautiful Soul"," 24 Apr. 2018 Being one of the headliners of the last-ever outing will be a bittersweet experience for the group, according to Sanders. Gary Graff, Billboard, "Mayday Parade Are 'Angry' But 'Hopeful' In New Video for Upcoming 'Sunnyland' Album: Premiere," 31 May 2018 In one of the episode’s few beautiful moments, June and handsome Nick (Max Minghella) have a bittersweet conversation about their newborn daughter., "The Handmaid's Tale Recap Season 2, Episode 12: Gilead's Romeo & Juliet," 4 July 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

16 Nov 2018

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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 \

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 \

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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