Queen's English. Meaning: To the limit of one's efforts - to the last extremity.
“Bitter” has been an adjective meaning acrid or sour tasting since way back when.
The word was in common use in the Middle Ages and Shakespeare, as did many other dramatists, used it numerous times in plays and poems. The phrase 'the bitter end' would seem, fairly obviously, to mean something acrid or sour tasting until finished, perhaps even a “bitter” life itself.
But not necessarily so! One of the earliest citations of the phrase in print is found in “Seaman's Grammar” (Captain Smith - 1627)
"A Bitter is but the turne of a Cable about the Bits, and veare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord."
Sailors amongst us will deduce that a “bitt” is a post on the deck of a ship for fastening cables and ropes. When a rope is played out to the bitter end, it means there is no more rope to be used. People seem to love a sailor's yarn, and anything with a whiff of the sea is seized on with enthusiasm. So much so that more thoughtful etymologists have dreamed up the inventive acronym CANOE: The Committee to Ascribe a Naval Origin to Everything.
So, is this one from CANOE or not? Although the naval origin does seem to have a good case, it isn't conclusive. When all else fails, consult Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia.
No, no, no – Wikipedia reads:
“The Bitter End is a nightclub, Coffee House and folk music venue in New York City's Greenwich Village. During the early 1960s the club hosted Folk music "hootenanies" featuring performers who have become legendary. In the mid-1970s, the club became known as the birthplace of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue, which featured such names as Joni Mitchell, Roger McGuinn, and Joan Baez, and many other guest stars.
The City of New York bestowed landmark status to the night club on July 23, 1992.”
Courtesy of: South Africans in Portugal