Word of the Day : March 15, 2019

two-bit

play
adjective TOO-BIT

Definition

1 : cheap or trivial of its kind : petty, small-time

2 : of the value of two bits

Did You Know?

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

"In 1956, he published Allen Ginsberg's Howl and Other Poems at City Lights Books, which was then, [Lawrence] Ferlinghetti says, both a one-room bookshop and a 'two-bit poetry press' in San Francisco." — Ira Silverberg, The Document Journal, December 10, 2018

"Bright lights shining through the foggy 1950s London air is the memorable backdrop of Jules Dassin's story of a two-bit American hustler, Harry Fabian, doing everything he can to stay ahead of his arrears and the doomed end pursuing him." — Kevin P. Sullivan, Vulture, 22 Jan. 2019



Test Your Vocabulary

Unscramble the letters to create a word that indicates the sum of two pennies: ETCUPNEP.

VIEW THE ANSWER

Video

play two-bit-word-of-the-day

'Two-bit' — Video Word of the Day 3/15/2019

adj. - cheap, trivial, or petty


Podcast


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!