1
: cheap or trivial of its kind : petty, small-time
a two-bit chiseler
2
: of the value of two bits

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The money-related definition of two-bit makes its etymology obvious: it is derived from the noun phrase two bits. However, two bits is an interesting phrase because it actually means "the value of a quarter of a dollar." There is no such thing as a single bit, at least not anymore. The now-obsolete Spanish dollar (also known as a peso or piece of eight) was composed of eight reales, or eight bits, so a quarter of the dollar equaled two bits. The phrase two bits carried over into U.S. usage. It first appeared in print in English in the early 1700s (and later developed the figurative sense of "something of small worth or importance"), and was followed by its adjectival relative sometime around the beginning of the 19th century. These days, the adjective has far surpassed the noun in popularity.

Examples of two-bit in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The 2017 bull market had vaulted crypto into the mainstream, but also given rise to outrageous scams and exposed many of the industry’s leading figures as two-bit hucksters—or worse. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune Crypto, 17 Aug. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'two-bit.' 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

1802, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of two-bit was in 1802

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Dictionary Entries Near two-bit

Cite this Entry

“Two-bit.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/two-bit. Accessed 1 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

two-bit

adjective
ˌtü-ˌbit
: not important or valuable

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