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Bitterness is the quality of something to have a bitter taste or the emotion of feeling bitter; acrimony, resentment. It is the opposite to Sweetness.


  • νόμωι (γάρ φησι) γλυκὺ καὶ νόμωι πικρόν, νόμωι θερμόν, νόμωι ψυχρόν, νόμωι χροιή, ἐτεῆι δὲ ἄτομα καὶ κενόν (Tetralogies of Thrasyllus, 9; Sext. Emp. adv. math. VII 135)
    • Sweet exists by convention, bitter by convention, colour by convention; atoms and Void [alone] exist in reality. (trans. Freeman 1948)[1], p. 92.
    • By convention sweet is sweet, bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth there are only atoms and the void. (trans. Durant 1939)[2], Ch. XVI, §II, p. 353; citing C. Bakewell, Sourcebook in Ancient Philosophy, New York, 1909, "Fragment O" (Diels), p. 60
  • Bitterness imprisons life; love releases it. Bitterness paralyzes life; love empowers it. Bitterness sours life; love sweetens it. Bitterness sickens life; love heals it. Bitterness blinds life; love anoints its eyes.
  • Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,
    quam quod ridiculos homines facit.
    • Bitter poverty has no harder pang than that it makes men ridiculous.
    • Juvenal, Satire III, line 152-3.
    • Variant translations:
      • Of all the Griefs that harrass the Distrest,
        Sure the most bitter is a scornful Jest.
  • One would think that an unsuccessful volume was like a degree in the school of reviewing. One unread work makes the judge bitter enough; but a second failure, and he is quite desperate in his damnation.
  • We may avoid much disappointment and bitterness of soul by learning to understand how little necessary to our joy and peace are the things the multitude most desire and seek.
  • Asperæ facetiæ, ubi nimis ex vero traxere,
    Acram sui memoriam relinquunt.
    • A bitter jest, when it comes too near the truth, leaves a sharp sting behind it.
    • Tacitus, Annales (AD 117), XV. 68.
  • When streams of unkindness, as bitter as gall,
    Bubble up from the heart to the tongue.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922).
  • World's use is cold, world's love is vain,
    World's cruelty is bitter bane;
    But pain is not the fruit of pain.
  • Sed ut acerbum est, pro benefactis quom malis messem metas!
    • It is a bitter disappointment when you have sown benefits, to reap injuries.
    • Plautus, Epidicus, V, 2, 52.
  • There is a snake in thy smile, my dear,
    And bitter poison within thy tear.

See also



  1. Tr. Kathleen Freeman, Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragments in Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Harvard University Press, 1948; republished by Forgotten Books, 2008, ISBN 1606802569 (full text online at Google Books; full text online at
  2. Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Part II – The Life of Greece, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1939
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