I looked up bitter in the dictionary but this word is difficult to understand in the following context:

Why the bitter arguments and heated discussions around Scotland's independence referendum might actually be a good thing.

(Source: CBC Radio)

What does bitter mean here? Is there any difference between bitter arguments and heated discussions?

  • 3
    Please provide context— full sentences, at a minimum. Otherwise, no one can say definitively; for example, bitter words can refer either to words that are hurtful and thus cause bitterness to the listener, or to words which invoke bitterness in the speaker— or to words that mean bitter.
    – choster
    Sep 24, 2014 at 0:42
  • Let's reopen this question now that it has some context.
    – user230
    Sep 24, 2014 at 15:30
  • @snailboat — I should not think that the context of 'bitter arguments' and 'heated discussions' needed clarification, for they are set expressions.
    – Brice C.
    Sep 28, 2014 at 10:20

3 Answers 3


Here bitter is used for acrimonious -

: bitterness, anger, rancor, resentment, ill feeling, ill will, bad blood, animosity, hostility, enmity, antagonism, waspishness, spleen, malice, spite, spitefulness, peevishness, venom, etc.

A "heated discussion" may not have the rancor, but it certainly has lots of passionate arguments.


See the Thesaurus part of the Webster dictionary:

'a bitter dispute acrimonious, virulent, angry, rancorous, spiteful, vicious, vitriolic, savage, ferocious, hate-filled, venomous, poisonous, acrid, nasty, ill-natured. antonym amicable'.


OALD has the entry for both! Furthermore, it's the same context

For the adjective bitter

(of arguments, disagreements, etc.) very serious and unpleasant, with a lot of anger and hatred involved

And, for the adjective heated

(of a person or discussion) full of anger and excitement

The sentence in concern uses both the phrases which triggers my mind and I can say that they just wanted to include everything i.e. anger, unpleasing and seriousness. Because had they used merely heated discussion, a chunk of readers might dismiss unpleasing as the meaning.

However, I see both quite similar. If something includes anger, it's quite unpleasing. Isn't it?

[Good to note that the adjective bitter can be used for anything that is unpleasant. Bitter truth is the commonest phrase to mean the truth which is not-so-likeable].

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