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See also: bitter-sweet


bittersweet (adj.), the orange-red colour of Solanum dulcamara (bittersweet, noun)

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English bitterswete, biterswete, equivalent to bitter +‎ sweet. Cognate with Saterland Frisian bitterswäit (bittersweet), West Frisian bittersoet (bittersweet), Dutch bitterzoet (bittersweet), German bittersüß (bittersweet), Danish bittersød (bittersweet), Swedish bittersöt (bittersweet).


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈbɪtɚˌswit/, [ˈbɪɾɚˌswiʔt̚], /ˌbɪtɚˈswit/
  • Rhymes: -iːt


bittersweet (comparative more bittersweet, superlative most bittersweet)

  1. Both bitter and sweet.
    • 2016, Kenneth Goh, "Roll over, chocolate lava cakes — here come lava mooncakes," The Straits Times, 21 August, 2016,[1]
      The dark green mooncake is loaded with matcha-infused salted egg yolk custard, which gives a bittersweet taste.
  2. Expressing contrasting emotions of pain and pleasure.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, chapter III, in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, volume (please specify |volume=I to VI), London: A[ndrew] Millar [], OCLC 928184292:
      [] sensations of this kind, however delicious, are, at their first recognition, of a very tumultuous nature, and have very little of the opiate in them. They were, moreover, in the present case, embittered with certain circumstances, which being mixed with sweeter ingredients, tended altogether to compose a draught that might be termed bitter-sweet []
    • 1898, Lewis Carroll, “Three Sunsets” in Three Sunsets and Other Poems,[2]
      He sat beside the busy street,
      There, where he last had seen her face:
      And thronging memories, bitter-sweet,
      Seemed yet to haunt the ancient place:
    The break-up was very bittersweet; they both hurt to end it, but were glad it was over.
  3. Of bittersweet color.

Derived terms[edit]



bittersweet (plural bittersweets)

  1. Solanum dulcamara.
    • 1597, John Gerarde [i.e., John Gerard], “Of Bitter Sweete, or Woode Nightshade”, in The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. [], London: [] Edm[und] Bollifant, for Bonham and Iohn Norton, OCLC 1184595079, book II, pages 278–279:
      Bitter ſweete bringeth foorth wooddie ſtalks as doth the Vine, parted into many ſlender creeping braunches, by which it climeth and taketh holde of hedges and ſhrubbes next vnto it. [] Bitter ſweet doth grow in moiſt places about ditches, riuers, and hedges, almoſt euery where.
  2. Bittersweetness.
    • 1941, Emily Carr, Klee Wyck, Chapter 18,[3]
      I had once before visited these three villages, Skedans, Tanoo and Cumshewa. The bitter-sweet of their overwhelming loneliness created a longing to return to them.
  3. (US) A vine, of the genus Celastrus, having small orange fruit that open to reveal red seeds.
    • 1935, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Spring Came on Forever, Chapter 43,[4]
      Over by the creek-bed scarlet-flamed sumac shouldered the silver-green of the willows, and orange-colored bittersweet crept through the tangle of wild plums.
  4. A variety of apple with a bittersweet taste.
  5. Any variety of clam in the family Glycymerididae
  6. A pinkish-orange color. Any color in between scarlet and orange.

Derived terms[edit]