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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[edit]

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[edit]


  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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