Definition of bitter in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbɪtə/


1Having a sharp, pungent taste or smell; not sweet: raw berries have an intensely bitter flavour
More example sentences
  • They all exhibit sour, salty, sweet, and bitter tastes or can be any combination of the four.
  • I sniffed at the mix of soap and sharp bitter smells.
  • Chamomile flower (Matricaria spp.) has a pleasantly bitter and sweet taste.
sharp, acid, acidic, pungent, acrid, tart, sour, biting, harsh, unsweetened, vinegary, acetous;
North American  acerb
archaic or technical acerbic
1.1(Of chocolate) dark and unsweetened.
Example sentences
  • I do like a few chunks of very dark, bitter chocolate, however, especially when paired with a suitable wine.
  • From a nutritional perspective, I think dark, bitter chocolate gets the edge because it is relatively low in sugar.
  • A starkly savoury wine, this Vacqueyras has a cool, sweet bouquet and a wash with dark bitter chocolate tones, raspberry and spice.
2Feeling or showing anger, hurt, or resentment because of bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment: I don’t feel jealous or bitter she wept bitter tears of self-reproach
More example sentences
  • Mix in a third person and there are going to be hurt feelings and bitter resentment over not getting the pork fried rice.
  • And there is anger as well as joy, bitter resentment as well as compassion, above all a sense of nagging grief.
  • It would be easy to have negative feelings at this moment in time but I think you only hurt yourself and become bitter and resentful.
resentful, embittered, aggrieved, dissatisfied, disgruntled, discontented, grudge-bearing, grudging, begrudging, indignant, rancorous, splenetic, spiteful, jaundiced, ill-disposed, sullen, sour, churlish, morose, petulant, peevish, with a chip on one's shoulder
2.1(Of a conflict, argument, or opponent) full of anger and acrimony: a bitter five-year legal battle
More example sentences
  • Those veterans had served in several conflicts including the bitter in-fighting of Algeria and the desert war in the Sahara.
  • Unsurprisingly, her first full international against bitter rivals England in 1973 is one she will always remember.
  • The predicted bitter disputes - legal, constitutional and inter-party - have not materialised.
acrimonious, virulent, angry, rancorous, spiteful, vindictive, vicious, vitriolic, savage, hostile, ferocious, scathing, antagonistic, hate-filled, venomous, poisonous, acrid, bilious, nasty, ill-natured, malign, choleric
3Painful or unpleasant to accept or contemplate: today’s decision has come as a bitter blow she knew from bitter experience how treacherous such feelings could be
More example sentences
  • While defeat to the bottom team is a bitter blow, and a cruel disappointment at the end of a four game winning sequence, it is not a cue for despair.
  • It was a bitter blow, because we're ranked second in Europe and I'm sure we would have done well.
  • The news will have come as a bitter blow to council chiefs who were hoping to improve upon their ‘weak’ assessment after the first preliminary report emerged this summer.
painful, unpleasant, disagreeable, nasty, cruel, awful, distressing, disquieting, disturbing, upsetting, harrowing, heartbreaking, heart-rending, agonizing, unhappy, miserable, wretched, sad, poignant, grievous, traumatic, tragic, chilling, mortifying, galling, vexatious
rare distressful
4(Of wind or weather) intensely cold: a bitter February night
More example sentences
  • If we can afford it, we escape the cold and bitter winds of northern Alberta to the soul-restoring warmth and relaxation of the tropics.
  • The capital is again bearing the brunt of the bitter weather with freezing winds, rain and hail showers.
  • Cold nights, bitter rain, the fear of predators, nothing would make me take that final step inside.
intensely cold, bitterly cold, freezing, icy, icy-cold, arctic, glacial, frosty, frigid, chilly;
piercing, penetrating, biting, nipping, stinging, sharp, keen, raw, harsh, wintry
informal nippy
British informal parky
literary chill


1 [mass noun] British Beer that is strongly flavoured with hops and has a bitter taste, brewed by top fermentation: a pint of bitter [count noun]: the company brews a range of bitters
More example sentences
  • Lager and bitter are different types of beer, commercially more different than red and white wine, but perhaps not as different as whisky and gin.
  • Beers include Fullers' London Pride and the local Warwickshire beer, Castle bitter.
  • Once they have been paid, they will head straight for the nearest public house and a pint of best bitter.
2 (bitters) [treated as singular] Alcohol flavoured with bitter plant extracts, used as an additive in cocktails or as a medicinal substance to promote appetite or digestion: a dash of bitters
More example sentences
  • I went with the waiter-recommended champagne cocktail with orange bitters.
  • The plant's active principles are volatile oils, tannins and bitters, and plant constituents acknowledged to improve digestion, reduce GI spasms, and lessen nausea.
  • So it may indeed be true that herbal bitters stimulate the appetite, probably by way of speedier digestion and quicker stomach emptying.


to the bitter end

Used to indicate that one will continue doing something until it is finished, no matter what: the workers would fight to the bitter end
Perhaps associated with a nautical word bitter denoting the last part of a cable inboard of the bitts, perhaps influenced by the biblical phrase ‘her end is bitter as wormwood’ (Prov. 5:4)
More example sentences
  • Therfore, I hereby resolve to stick the play out to the bitter end, no matter how dire.
  • Last week's decision to take the matter to the bitter end at the Court of Appeal was taken at a hastily-convened meeting by just four members.
  • Things were looking a little different this time last week as Polygon indicated it would fight to the bitter end.


Old English biter, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch and German bitter, and probably to bite.

  • Like bit, bitter is related to bite. In the phrase to the bitter end ‘until something is finished, no matter what’, is probably not from this word. It derives instead from a nautical term bitter (early 17th century), meaning the last part of a cable, that goes around the ‘bitts’ or fastening points for ropes on board ship. The biblical quotation ‘her end is bitter as wormwood’ may have helped popularize the phrase. Many Englishmen love their pint of bitter. This use seems to have started life as Oxford University slang in the 1850s, when students would talk of ‘doing bitters’.

Words that rhyme with bitter

committer, critter, embitter, emitter, fitter, flitter, fritter, glitter, gritter, hitter, jitter, knitter, litter, permitter, pitta, quitter, remitter, sitter, skitter, slitter, spitter, splitter, submitter, titter, transmitter, twitter, witter

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: bit¦ter

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