from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A small portion, degree, or amount: a bit of lint; a bit of luck.
  • n. A brief amount of time; a moment: Wait a bit.
  • n. A short scene or episode in a theatrical performance.
  • n. A bit part.
  • n. An entertainment routine given regularly by a performer; an act.
  • n. Informal A particular kind of action, situation, or behavior: got tired of the macho bit.
  • n. Informal A matter being considered: What's this bit about inflation?
  • n. Informal An amount equal to one eighth of a dollar: two bits.
  • n. Chiefly British A small coin: a threepenny bit.
  • idiom a bit To a small degree; somewhat: a bit warm.
  • idiom bit by bit Little by little; gradually.
  • idiom do (one's) bit To do one's part or contribute one's share.
  • n. The sharp part of a tool, such as the cutting edge of a knife or ax.
  • n. A pointed and threaded tool for drilling and boring that is secured in a brace, bitstock, or drill press.
  • n. The part of a key that enters the lock and engages the bolt and tumblers.
  • n. The tip of the mouthpiece on a pipe or a cigarette or cigar holder.
  • n. The metal mouthpiece of a bridle, serving to control, curb, and direct an animal.
  • n. Something that controls, guides, or curbs.
  • transitive v. To place a bit in the mouth of (a horse, for example).
  • transitive v. To check or control with or as if with a bit.
  • transitive v. To make or grind a bit on (a key).
  • idiom have To be uncontrollable; cast off restraint.
  • n. Computer Science A fundamental unit of information having just two possible values, as either of the binary digits 0 or 1.
  • v. Past tense and a past participle of bite.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. Simple past of bite.
  • v. (UK, archaic) Past participle of bite
  • adj. this sense?) (colloquial) bitten.
  • adj. Having been bitten.
  • n. A piece of metal placed in a horse's mouth and connected to reins to direct the animal.
  • n. A rotary cutting tool fitted to a drill, used to make holes.
  • n. An eighth of a dollar. Note that there is no coin minted worth 12.5 cents. (When this term first came into use, the Spanish 8 reales coin was widely used as a dollar equivalent, and thus the 1 real coin was equivalent to 12.5 cents.)
  • n. A coin of a specified value. (Also used for a nine-pence coin in the British Caribbean.)
  • n. A small amount of something.
  • n. Specifically, a small amount of time.
  • n. : A portion of something.
  • n. A prison sentence, especially a short one.
  • n. An excerpt of material from a composition or show.
  • adv. To a small extent; in a small amount (usually with "a").
  • n. A binary digit, generally represented as a 1 or 0.
  • n. The smallest unit of storage in a digital computer, consisting of a binary digit.
  • n. Any datum that may take on one of exactly two values.
  • n. A unit of measure for information entropy.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • imp. & p. p. of bite.
  • the smallest unit of information, equivalent to a choice between two alternatives, as yes or no; on or off.
  • the physical representation of a bit of information in a computer memory or a data storage medium. Within a computer circuit a bit may be represented by the state of a current or an electrical charge; in a magnetic storage medium it may be represented by the direction of magnetization; on a punched card or on paper tape it may be represented by the presence or absence of a hole at a particular point on the card or tape.
  • 3d sing. pr. of bid, for biddeth.
  • n. The part of a bridle, usually of iron, which is inserted in the mouth of a horse, and having appendages to which the reins are fastened.
  • n. Fig.: Anything which curbs or restrains.
  • n. In the British West Indies, a fourpenny piece, or groat.
  • n. A part of anything, such as may be bitten off or taken into the mouth; a morsel; a bite. Hence: A small piece of anything; a little; a mite.
  • n. Somewhat; something, but not very great.
  • n. A tool for boring, of various forms and sizes, usually turned by means of a brace or bitstock. See Bitstock.
  • n. The part of a key which enters the lock and acts upon the bolt and tumblers.
  • n. The cutting iron of a plane.
  • n. In the Southern and Southwestern States, a small silver coin (as the real) formerly current; commonly, one worth about 12 1/2 cents; also, the sum of 12 1/2 cents.
  • transitive v. To put a bridle upon; to put the bit in the mouth of.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To put a bridle upon; put the bit in the mouth of (a horse); accustom to the bit; hence, to curb; restrain.
  • n. The act of biting; a bite.
  • n. The action of biting food; eating; grazing.
  • n. The biting, cutting, or penetrating action of an edged weapon or tool.
  • n. The biting, catching, holding, cutting, or boring part of a tool.
  • n. A boring-tool used in a carpenter's brace.
  • n. The metal part of a bridle which is inserted in the mouth of a horse, with the appendages (rings, etc.) to which the reins are fastened.
  • n. The joint of an umbrella.
  • n. A hammer used by masons for dressing granite and for rough picking.
  • n. In music, a short piece of tube used to alter slightly the pitch of such wind-instruments as the trumpet, cornet-à-pistons, etc.
  • n. A portion of food bitten off; a mouthful; a bite.
  • n. A morsel or a little piece of food.
  • n. Hence A small quantity of food; a modicum or moderate supply of provisions: as, to take a bit and a sup.
  • n. A small piece or fragment of anything; a small portion or quantity; a little: as, a bit of glass; a bit of land; a bit of one's mind.
  • n. Crisis; nick of time.
  • n. A small piece of ground; a spot.
  • n. Any small coin: as, a fourpenny-bit; a six-penny-bit.
  • n. Synonyms Scrap, fragment, morsel, particle, atom.
  • n. Preterit and occasional past participle of bite.
  • n. A Middle English and Anglo-Saxon contraction of biddeth, third person singular indicative present of bid.
  • n. An obsolete spelling of bitt.
  • n. A Middle English form of butt.
  • n. In mining: The cutting edge of a drill for boring rock by hand or by machine drilling.
  • n. A sharpened steel bar used for drilling rock by hand or by machine.
  • n. In ceramics, a small piece of stone for separating the pieces of pottery in the kiln: used before the invention of stilts, cock-spurs, and triangles. Ware so made was called bit-stone ware.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a small fragment
  • n. a small piece or quantity of something
  • n. an indefinitely short time
  • n. a unit of measurement of information (from binary + digit); the amount of information in a system having two equiprobable states
  • n. the part of a key that enters a lock and lifts the tumblers
  • n. the cutting part of a drill; usually pointed and threaded and is replaceable in a brace or bitstock or drill press
  • n. a small amount of solid food; a mouthful
  • n. piece of metal held in horse's mouth by reins and used to control the horse while riding
  • n. an instance of some kind
  • n. a short theatrical performance that is part of a longer program
  • n. a small fragment of something broken off from the whole


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English bite, morsel, from Old English bita; see bheid- in Indo-European roots.
Middle English bite, from Old English, act of biting.
Blend of b(inary) and (dig)it.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old English bita and bite - all from Proto-Germanic *bitô, from Proto-Indo-European *bheid- (“to split”).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

See bite

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Coined by John Tukey in 1946 as an abbreviation of binary digit, probably influenced by connotations of “small portion”. First used in print 1948 by Claude Shannon. Compare byte and nybble.


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  • In Slovene, this word means "being", as in the Slovene name of Heidegger's Bit in čas (Being and Time). And, it's a feminine noun with -ø ending in the nominative singular and -í ending in the genitive singular!

    March 8, 2011

  • also a language of Laos

    June 15, 2009

  • A mass of molten glass, usually small and freshly gathered from the furnace. In a team of glassworkers, the bit gatherer removes bits from the furnace, using a bit iron. Also known as a gob.

    November 9, 2007

  • the mouthpiece of a bridle.

    July 17, 2007