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


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.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Old English bita and bite - all from Proto-Germanic *bitô, from Proto-Indo-European *bheid- (“to split”). (Wiktionary)
See bite (Wiktionary)
Coined by John Tukey in 1946 as an abbreviation of binary digit, probably influenced by connotations of “small portion”.[2] First used in print 1948 by Claude Shannon. Compare byte and nybble. (Wiktionary)


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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