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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.


  • (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, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Chapter III,[2]
      [] 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,[3]
      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 Gerard, The herball, or, Generall historie of plantes, Chapter 63,[4]
      Of Bitter-sweet, or wooddy Nightshade. Bitter-sweet bringeth forth wooddy stalks as doth the Vine,
  2. Bittersweetness.
    • 1941, Emily Carr, Klee Wyck, Chapter 18,[5]
      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,[6]
      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.
    • 1887, Thomas Hardy, The Woodlanders, Chapter 6,[7]
      “They had a good crop of bitter-sweets; they couldn’t grind them all” (nodding towards an orchard where some heaps of apples had been left lying ever since the ingathering).
  5. Any variety of clam in the family Glycymerididae
  6. A pinkish-orange color. Any color in between scarlet and orange.

Derived terms[edit]