Origin of bitter endarchaic bitter, turn of cable about a bitt
to the bitter end
Origin of bitter endso called because with the cable out to the bitter end, no freedom of action remains; meaning infl. by bitter,
- until the end, however difficult or distressing
- until death
- A final, painful, or disastrous extremity.
- Nautical The inboard end of a chain, rope, or cable, especially the end of a rope or cable that is wound around a bitt.
Origin of bitter endEnglish bitter, bitt (bitt + –er1) + end. Sense 1, influenced by bitter.
(plural bitter ends)
- (nautical) that part of an anchor cable which is abaft the bitts and thus remains inboard when a ship is riding at anchor
- Note: To pay out a rope to the bitter end means to pay it all out
- (idiomatic) The end of a long and difficult process.
- (nautical) the final six fathoms of anchor chain before the point of attachment in the chain locker of modern U.S.naval vessels, with these six fathoms often painted blue, white and red to warn deck hands of the end of available anchor chain.
Some see the idiomatic use as a corruption of the nautical one, replacing the nautical term bitts with the unrelated term bitter (“unpleasant, arduous”).