adjective, bit·ter·er, bit·ter·est.
- having a harsh, disagreeably acrid taste, like that of aspirin, quinine, wormwood, or aloes.
- producing one of the four basic taste sensations; not sour, sweet, or salt.
- hard to bear; grievous; distressful: a bitter sorrow.
- causing pain; piercing; stinging: a bitter chill.
- characterized by intense antagonism or hostility: bitter hatred.
- hard to admit or accept: a bitter lesson.
- resentful or cynical: bitter words.
- that which is bitter; bitterness: Learn to take the bitter with the sweet.
- British. a very dry ale having a strong taste of hops.
verb (used with object)
- to make bitter: herbs employed to bitter vermouth.
- extremely; very; exceedingly: a bitter cold night.
- having or denoting an unpalatable harsh taste, as the peel of an orange or coffee dregsCompare sour (def. 1)
- showing or caused by strong unrelenting hostility or resentmenthe was still bitter about the divorce
- difficult or unpleasant to accept or admita bitter blow
- cutting; sarcasticbitter words
- bitingly colda bitter night
- very; extremely (esp in the phrase bitter cold)
- a thing that is bitter
- British beer with a high hop content, with a slightly bitter taste
- to make or become bitter
Old English biternys “bitterness, grief;” see bitter + -ness. Figurative sense (of feelings, etc.) is attested earlier than literal sense (of taste), which will surprise no one who reads any amount of Anglo-Saxon literature.
Old English biter “bitter, sharp, cutting; angry, embittered; cruel,” from Proto-Germanic *bitras- (cf. Old Saxon bittar, Old Norse bitr, Dutch bitter, Old High German bittar, German bitter, Gothic baitrs “bitter”), from PIE root *bheid- “to split” (cf. Old English bitan “to bite;” see bite (v.)). Evidently the meaning drifted in prehistoric times from “biting, of pungent taste,” to “acrid-tasting.” Used figuratively in Old English of states of mind and words. Related: Bitterly.
In addition to the idioms beginning with bitter
- bitter end
- bitter pill to swallow
- take the bitter with the sweet