bit·​ter | \ ˈbi-tər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \

Definition of bitter

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : being, inducing, or marked by the one of the five basic taste sensations that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, and often disagreeable and characteristic of citrus peels, unsweetened cocoa, black coffee, mature leafy greens (such as kale or mustard), or ale The pill left a bitter taste in my mouth. bitter beer bitter chocolates — compare salty entry 1 sense 1b, sour entry 1 sense 1, sweet entry 1, umami entry 2 sense 1
b : distasteful or distressing to the mind : galling a bitter sense of shame
2 : marked by intensity or severity:
a : accompanied by severe pain or suffering a bitter death
b : being relentlessly determined : vehement a bitter partisan
c : exhibiting intense animosity bitter enemies
d(1) : harshly reproachful bitter complaints
(2) : marked by cynicism and rancor bitter contempt was still bitter about not being chosen
e : intensely unpleasant especially in coldness or rawness a bitter wind
3 : caused by or expressive of severe pain, grief, or regret bitter tears



Definition of bitter (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : bitter quality … stepping outside your comfort zone and taking the bitter with the sweet.— James Poniewoziks
b : the taste sensation that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, and often disagreeable and is characteristic of citrus peels, unsweetened cocoa, black coffee, mature leafy greens (such as kale or mustard), or ale — compare salty entry 2, sour entry 2 sense 1b, sweet entry 3 sense 2, umami entry 1
2a bitters\ ˈbi-​tərz How to pronounce bitter (audio) \ plural : a usually alcoholic solution of bitter and often aromatic plant products used especially in preparing mixed drinks or as a mild tonic (see tonic entry 1 sense 1b)
b British : a very dry (see dry entry 1 sense 7b) heavily hopped ale


bittered; bittering; bitters

Definition of bitter (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

: to make bitter (see bitter entry 1) bittered ale



Definition of bitter (Entry 4 of 4)

: to an intense or severe degree : to a bitter (see bitter entry 1) degree It's bitter cold.

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Other Words from bitter


bitterish \ ˈbi-​tə-​rish How to pronounce bitter (audio) \ adjective
bitterly adverb
bitterness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for bitter

Synonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Adjective

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Examples of bitter in a Sentence

Adjective Cocoa beans have a bitter flavor. The medicine had a bitter aftertaste. We were struck by the bitter irony of the situation. His betrayal had made her bitter. She was still bitter toward her ex-husband. He's the bitterest man I know. Noun The cocktail recipe called for a dash of bitters. a good selection of bitters
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Brees doesn’t seem to be bitter about losing his place in the record books., 29 Sep. 2021 That failing, after losing three straight to the Nuggets the season before in the first round, was most bitter. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Sep. 2021 The weather is bitter, factories are shutting down, and an at-large serial killer is targeting taxi drivers in the area. Guy Lodge, Variety, 27 Sep. 2021 Discard the skins; hachiya peels can be slightly bitter. Andrea Beck, Better Homes & Gardens, 17 Sep. 2021 Some were relieved and looking forward to starting their new lives far from the Taliban, but others were bitter about having to flee. Anchorage Daily News, 28 Aug. 2021 At one point Saturday, a fire hose blasted one of the lower floors on the north side of the tower as white smoke or steam streamed out, and a bitter, sulfur-like smell hung in the air. al, 27 June 2021 Himaka said her mother is still bitter about being ripped away from her life in Oceanside in 1942. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 19 Sep. 2021 Fernandez seemed to laugh at the timing of Raducanu’s break, but wasn’t bitter about it afterwards. Sean Gregory, Time, 12 Sep. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun It is typically sold as a bitter-tasting powder, which can be made into a tea or swallowed in capsules. Maia Szalavitz, Scientific American, 12 Aug. 2021 Other favorite ingredients that bring out the brashness include angelica, wormwood, cinchona bark, licorice, green cardamom, mint, and everyone’s favorite Christmas bitter, myrrh. Beth Segal, cleveland, 28 May 2021 Wexford Irish Style Cream Ale has a profile similar to an English bitter, but with less bitterness and a greater malt presence. Michael Agnew, Star Tribune, 10 Mar. 2021 Monarchs have evolved to withstand a certain level of that toxin, storing it away in their bodies as a bitter-tasting deterrent to potential predators, including parasites. Farah Eltohamy, Animals, 15 Dec. 2020 While producing similar effects to that of bitter-tasting apple cider vinegar or saccharine kombucha, Pedre notes the equal parts unique and flavorful combinations—including apple cinnamon and turmeric ginger—as well as the low sugar content. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, 25 Nov. 2020 Derived from a bitter-tasting tree native to India, this toxin was known since antiquity in Asia and was used in many traditional medicines. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, 4 Oct. 2020 Try a Bitter Giuseppe, with sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a slice of lemon or splash of lemon juice. Dave Clark,, 29 May 2020 The Jingle Bow serves between two and four people and includes multiple types of rum, apple brandy, tropical fruit juices, bitters and maple syrup. Tirion Morris, azcentral, 12 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Most Beach Club beers, like Mango Colada with coconut and lime, have minimal amounts of bittering hops. Eric Velasco, al, 23 Apr. 2020 This grape is extremely approachable, with lots of fruit flavor and balanced dryness, due to the low tannins, which are the drying or bittering agent in many wines. Paul Daugherty,, 7 Nov. 2019 With all the ABVs and bittering units, barrel sizes and batch numbers, a beer bottle’s label can often read like the back of a baseball card. William Bostwick, WSJ, 8 Aug. 2018 The liqueur puts Indiana persimmons front and center while adding traditional bittering agents like rhubarb root and bitter orange peel, with cardamom and spearmint offering added complexity. Kenney Marlatt,, 30 May 2018 Another hop, typically grown in the Southern Hemisphere and used largely as a bittering agent, presented big, fruit flavors more like traditional West Coast hops. Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian, 21 May 2018 Those are made employing the still somewhat suspicious American practice of adding bittering hops to the mix, but there's nothing aggressive or even untoward about them. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, 22 Mar. 2018 Night Shift built Nite Lite similarly, adding real corn (as opposed to corn syrup or rice syrup) and brewing with a touch of Saaz hops, the classic bittering agent in a Czech pilsner. Gary Dzen,, 20 Mar. 2018 Two grants for a total of $135,154 went to Pennsylvania State University for projects involving hops, which are the bittering agent in beer. Harold Brubaker,, 1 Mar. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb Wormwood is a European plant that yields a bitter-tasting oil but contains neither worm nor wood. Richard Lederer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 12 June 2021 The benefit to squeezers is more control over the juicing process, so your end result should be pure, delicious juice with no bitter-tasting peel oil. Laura Duerr,, 13 Mar. 2021 Tonic is in another category altogether and best left for your G&Ts; the bitter-tasting quinine is usually balanced by a fair amount of sugar, and the more pronounced flavor can alter your cocktail’s taste. Adrienne Donica, Popular Mechanics, 11 July 2020 Once the weather starts getting hot, your celery will start producing seeds and turn bitter, much the way that lettuce bolts in the heat. Jeanette Marantosstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 22 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bitter.' 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 bitter


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


12th century, in the meaning defined above


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for bitter


Middle English, going back to Old English biter, going back to Germanic *bitra- (whence Old Saxon & Old High German bittar "acrid-tasting," Old Norse bitr "biting, sharp") and *baitra- (whence Gothic baitrs "sharp-tasting"), derivatives from the base of *bītan- "to bite" — more at bite entry 1


derivative of bitter entry 1


Middle English bittrin, going back to Old English biterian, derivative of biter bitter entry 1


Middle English bitter, bittere, going back to Old English bitere, derivative of biter bitter entry 1

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Time Traveler for bitter

Time Traveler

The first known use of bitter was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near bitter

bitten-leaf disease


bitter almond

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Statistics for bitter

Last Updated

9 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bitter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for bitter



English Language Learners Definition of bitter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: having a strong and often unpleasant flavor that is the opposite of sweet
: causing painful emotions : felt or experienced in a strong and unpleasant way
: angry and unhappy because of unfair treatment



English Language Learners Definition of bitter (Entry 2 of 2)

: a bitter alcoholic liquid that is used especially in mixed drinks
: a type of beer that has a slightly bitter flavor


bit·​ter | \ ˈbi-tər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \
bitterer; bitterest

Kids Definition of bitter

1 : sharp, biting, and unpleasant to the taste
2 : unhappy and angry because of unfair treatment She was bitter toward her spoiled sister.
3 : hard to put up with a bitter disappointment
4 : caused by anger, distress, or sorrow bitter tears
5 : very harsh or sharp : biting a bitter wind

Other Words from bitter

bitterly adverb wept bitterly


bit·​ter | \ ˈbit-ər How to pronounce bitter (audio) \

Medical Definition of bitter

: being or inducing the one of the four basic taste sensations that is peculiarly acrid, astringent, or disagreeable and suggestive of an infusion of hops — compare salt entry 2 sense 2, sour entry 1, sweet entry 1

Other Words from bitter

bitterness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on bitter

Nglish: Translation of bitter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bitter for Arabic Speakers


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