bitter end (n.)
by 1759 in lexicons of nautical language, "the part of a cable which is round about the bitts" (the two great timbers used to belay cables) when the ship is at anchor (see bitt).
Bitter end of the Cable, the End which is wound about the Bitts. ["The News-Readers Pocket-Book: Or, a Military Dictionary," London, 1759]
When a cable is played out to the bitter end, there is no more left to play. Hence the term began to be used c. 1835 in non-nautical language and with probable influence of if not displacement by bitter (adj.).
updated on October 13, 2022