adj. bit·ter·er, bit·ter·est
1. Having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant.
2. Causing a sharply unpleasant, painful, or stinging sensation; harsh: enveloped in bitter cold; a bitter wind.
3. Difficult or distasteful to accept, admit, or bear: the bitter truth; bitter sorrow.
4. Proceeding from or exhibiting strong animosity: a bitter struggle; bitter foes.
5. Resulting from or expressive of severe grief, anguish, or disappointment: cried bitter tears.
6. Marked by resentment or cynicism: "He was already a bitter elderly man with a gray face" (John Dos Passos).
In an intense or harsh way; bitterly: a bitter cold night.
tr.v. bit·tered, bit·ter·ing, bit·ters
To make bitter.
1. That which is bitter: "all words ... / Failing to give the bitter of the sweet" (Tennyson).
2. bitters A bitter, usually alcoholic liquid made with herbs or roots and used in cocktails or as a tonic.
3. Chiefly British A sharp-tasting beer made with hops.
[Middle English, from Old English; see bheid- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: bitter, acerbic, acrid
These adjectives mean unpleasantly sharp or pungent in taste or smell: a bitter cough syrup; a cheap, acerbic wine; acrid smoke.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.