From Middle English bitte, bite, from Old English bita (“bit; fragment; morsel”) and bite (“a bite; cut”), from Proto-Germanic *bitô and *bitiz; both from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeyd- (“to split”). Cognate with West Frisian bit, Saterland Frisian Bit, Dutch bit, German Low German Beet, Biet, German Biss, Danish bid, Swedish bit, Icelandic biti.
bit (plural bits)
- A piece of metal placed in a horse's mouth and connected to the reins to direct the animal.
- A rotary cutting tool fitted to a drill, used to bore holes.
- (dated, Britain) A coin of a specified value. (Also formerly used for a nine-pence coin in the British Caribbean, and a fourpenny piece, or groat, in the British West Indies.)
- (obsolete, Canada) A ten-cent piece, dime.
- (US) 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.)
- (historical, US) In the southern and southwestern states, a small silver coin (such as the real) formerly current; commonly, one worth about 12½ cents; also, the sum of 12½ cents.
- A small amount of something.
- (informal) Specifically, a small amount of time.
- (plural, informal, sports) Fractions of a second.
- A portion of something.
- Somewhat; something, but not very great; also used like jot and whit to express the smallest degree. See also a bit.
- (slang) A prison sentence, especially a short one.
- An excerpt of material making up part of a show, comedy routine, etc.
- The part of a key which enters the lock and acts upon the bolt and tumblers.
- The cutting iron of a plane.
bit (third-person singular simple present bits, present participle bitting, simple past and past participle bitted)
- (transitive) To put a bridle upon; to put the bit in the mouth of (a horse).
- simple past tense of bite
- (informal in US, archaic in Britain) past participle of bite, bitten
bit (not comparable)
- (colloquial) bitten.
- (only in combination) Having been bitten.
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.
bit (plural bits)
- (mathematics, computing) A binary digit, generally represented as a 1 or 0.
- (computing) The smallest unit of storage in a digital computer, consisting of a binary digit.
- (information theory, cryptography) Any datum that may take on one of exactly two values.
- (information theory) A unit of measure for information entropy.
- A microbitcoin, or a millionth of a bitcoin (0.000001 BTC).