- a small piece or quantity of anything: a bit of string.
- a short time: Wait a bit.
- Informal. an amount equivalent to 12½ U.S. cents (used only in even multiples): two bits; six bits.
- an act, performance, or routine: She’s doing the Camille bit, pretending to be near collapse.
- a stereotypic or habitual set of behaviors, attitudes, or styles associated with an individual, role, situation, etc.: the whole Wall Street bit.
- Also called bit part. a very small role, as in a play or motion picture, containing few or no lines.Compare walk-on(def 1).
- any small coin: a threepenny bit.
- a Spanish or Mexican silver real worth 12½ cents, formerly current in parts of the U.S.
- a bit, rather or somewhat; a little: a bit sleepy.
- a bit much, somewhat overdone or beyond tolerability.
- bit by bit, by degrees; gradually: Having saved money bit by bit, they now had enough to buy the land.
- do one’s bit, to contribute one’s share to an effort: They all did their bit during the war.
- every bit, quite; just: every bit as good.
- quite a bit, a fairly large amount: There’s quite a bit of snow on the ground.
- a small piece, portion, or quantity
- a short time or distance
- US and Canadian informal the value of an eighth of a dollar: spoken of only in units of twotwo bits
- any small coin
- short for bit part
- informal way of behaving, esp one intended to create a particular impressionshe’s doing the prima donna bit
- a bit rather; somewhata bit dreary
- a bit of
- rathera bit of a dope
- a considerable amountthat must take quite a bit of courage
- a bit of all right, a bit of crumpet, a bit of stuff or a bit of tail British slang a sexually attractive woman
- bit by bit gradually
- bit on the side informal an extramarital affair
- do one’s bit to make one’s expected contribution
- every bit (foll by as) to the same degreeshe was every bit as clever as her brother
- not a bit or not a bit of it not in the slightest; not at all
- to bits completely apartto fall to bits
- a metal mouthpiece, for controlling a horse on a bridle
- anything that restrains or curbs
- take the bit in one’s teeth, take the bit between one’s teeth, have the bit in one’s teeth or have the bit between one’s teeth
- to undertake a task with determination
- to rebel against control
- a cutting or drilling tool, part, or head in a brace, drill, etc
- the blade of a woodworking plane
- the part of a pair of pincers designed to grasp an object
- the copper end of a soldering iron
- the part of a key that engages the levers of a lock
verb bits, bitting or bitted (tr)
- to put a bit in the mouth of (a horse)
- to restrain; curb
- the past tense and (archaic) past participle of bite
noun maths computing
- a single digit of binary notation, represented either by 0 or by 1
- the smallest unit of information, indicating the presence or absence of a single feature
- a unit of capacity of a computer, consisting of an element of its physical structure capable of being in either of two states, such as a switch with on and off positions, or a microscopic magnet capable of alignment in two directions
“small piece,” c.1200; related Old English bite “act of biting,” and bita “piece bitten off,” probably are the source of the modern words meaning “boring-piece of a drill” (1590s), “mouthpiece of a horse’s bridle” (mid-14c.), and “a piece bitten off, morsel” (c.1000). All from Proto-Germanic *biton (cf. Old Saxon biti, Old Norse bit, Old Frisian bite, Middle Dutch bete, Old High German bizzo “biting,” German Bissen “a bite, morsel”), from PIE root *bheid- “to split” (see fissure).
Meaning “small piece, fragment” is from c.1600. Sense of “short space of time” is 1650s. Theatrical bit part is from 1909. Money sense in two bits, etc. is originally from Southern U.S. and West Indies, in reference to silver wedges cut or stamped from Spanish dollars (later Mexican reals); transferred to “eighth of a dollar.”
computerese word, 1948 abbreviation coined by U.S. computer pioneer John W. Tukey (1915-2000) of binary digit, probably chosen for its identity with bit (n.1).
past tense of bite.
- The smallest unit of computer memory. A bit holds one of two possible values, either of the binary digits 0 or 1. The term comes from the phrase binary digit. See Note at byte.
The smallest unit of information. One bit corresponds to a “yes” or “no.” Some examples of a bit of information: whether a light is on or off, whether a switch (like a transistor) is on or off, whether a grain of magnetized iron points up or down.
Also, little by little. Gradually, by small degrees, slowly. For example, The squirrels dug up the lawn bit by bit, till we had almost no grass, or Little by little he began to understand what John was getting at. The first term was first recorded in 1849, although bit in the sense of “small amount” is much older; the variant dates from the 1400s.
In addition to the idiom beginning with bit
- bit by bit
- bite off more than one can chew
- bite one’s nails
- bite one’s tongue
- bite someone’s head off
- bite the bullet
- bite the dust
- bite the hand that feeds you
- a bit
- champ at the bit
- do one’s bit
- every bit
- not a bit
- quite a bit
- take the bit in one’s mouth
- two bits