Old English biter "having a harsh taste, sharp, cutting; angry, full of animosity; cruel," from Proto-Germanic *bitras- (source also of Old Saxon bittar, Old Norse bitr, Dutch bitter, Old High German bittar, German bitter, Gothic baitrs "bitter"), from suffixed form of PIE root *bheid- "to split" (source also of Old English bitan "to bite;" see bite (v.)). Evidently the meaning drifted in prehistoric times from "biting, of pungent taste," to "acrid-tasting." Used figuratively in Old English of states of mind and words. Related: Bitterly.
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