• WordNet 3.6
    • n bittern relatively small compact tawny-brown heron with nocturnal habits and a booming cry; found in marshes
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Bittern A very bitter compound of quassia, cocculus Indicus, etc., used by fraudulent brewers in adulterating beer.
    • n Bittern (Zoöl) A wading bird of the genus Botaurus, allied to the herons, of various species.☞ The common European bittern is Botaurus stellaris. It makes, during the brooding season, a noise called by Dryden bumping, and by Goldsmith booming. The American bittern is Botaurus lentiginosus, and is also called stake-driver and meadow hen. See Stake-driver.
    • Bittern The brine which remains in salt works after the salt is concreted, having a bitter taste from the chloride of magnesium which it contains.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • n bittern A European wading bird, of the family Ardeidæ and subfamily Botaurinæ; the Botaurus stellaris, a kind of heron. It is about 2 feet long, is speckled, mottled, and freckled with several shades of blackish-brown, buff, etc., lives solitary in bogs and morasses, has a hollow guttural cry, and nests usually on the ground.
    • n bittern Any heron of the subfamily Botaurinæ. The American bittern is Botaurus mugitans or B. lentiginosus. The very small rail-like herons of the genera Ardetta, Ardeola, etc., are called little or least bitterns; the European species is Ardetta minuta: the North American, A. exilis; and there are others. The tiger bitterns are beautifully striped species of the genus Tigrisoma, as T. brasiliensis.
    • n bittern In salt-works, the brine remaining after the salt is concreted. This, after being ladled off and the salt taken out of the pan, is returned, and, being again boiled, yields more salt. It is used in the preparation of Epsom salt (the sulphate of magnesia) and Glauber salt (the sulphate of soda), and contains also chlorid of magnesium, and iodine and bromine.
    • n bittern A very bitter compound of quassia, cocculus indicus, licorice, tobacco, etc., used for adulterating beer. Also called bittering.
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Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • n Bittern bit′ėrn a bird of the heron family, said to have been named from the resemblance of its voice to the lowing of a bull.
    • n Bittern bit′ėrn an oily liquid remaining in salt-works after the crystallisation of the salt, and used in the manufacture of Epsom salts.
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
OE. bitoure, betore, bitter, fr. F. butor,; of unknown origin


In literature:

So far as I know, the bittern thing has no voice at all.
"Four Americans" by Henry A. Beers
A northern name for the black-wak, or bittern.
"The Sailor's Word-Book" by William Henry Smyth
Our robins and bluebirds are of the orchard and the home of man, but who can claim neighbourship to the bittern or the bullfrog?
"The Log of the Sun" by William Beebe
Up from the reeds a bittern will now and then start.
"The Foot-path Way" by Bradford Torrey
I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water.
"Pilgrimage from the Alps to the Tiber" by James Aitken Wylie
In the swamp a bittern booms; and strange wailing cries come from the depths of the bush.
"Brighter Britain! (Volume 1 of 2)" by William Delisle Hay
It is very different from the Least Bittern, having a more uniform chestnut coloration, especially on the under parts.
"The Bird Book" by Chester A. Reed
Yet what she loses on one side she gains on another; she is like that least bittern Mr. Frank M. Chapman tells about.
"Ways of Nature" by John Burroughs
Along the creeks and river sides, and in the wet savannas, six species of the bittern will engage your attention.
"Wanderings in South America" by Charles Waterton
Quaint, unwieldy bitterns flap their slow way to nests well hidden in the reeds.
"Sigurd Our Golden Collie and Other Comrades of the Road" by Katharine Lee Bates

In poetry:

The black ducks mounting from the lake,
The pigeon in the pines,
The bittern's boom, a desert make
Which no false art refines.
"Waldeinsamkeit" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thus he footed the fens so dreary and dern,
While his brain, like the sky, was darkening;
And, with dread, to the scream of the startled hern
And the bittern's boom, he was hearkening.
"The Gosherd Of Croyland" by Thomas Cooper
Grieved him to lurk the lakes beside,
Where coots in rushy dingles hide,
And moorcocks shun the day;
While caitiff bitterns, undismay'd,
Remark the swain's familiar shade,
And scorn to quit their prey.
"A Pastoral Ode. To the Hon. Sir Richard Lyttleton" by William Shenstone
But I answered nothing. And so to her home
We came in the twilight; falling clear,
With a few first stars and a moon's curved foam,
Over the hush of meadow and mere,
Whence the boom of the bittern would often come.
"My Lady Of Verne" by Madison Julius Cawein
The pleasant songs of peace, the lute, the lover's sigh,
The statesman's eloquence, the warrior's battle-cry
Have pass'd,--and like their echo from the heedless sky,
The lonely Bittern's note comes sadly floating by.
"The Bittern" by Walter Richard Cassels
White were the billows, wide display'd
The clouds were black and low;
The Bittern shriek'd, a gliding shade
Seem'd o'er the waves to go !
The livid flash illum'd the clam'rous main,
While ZELMA pour'd, unmark'd, her melancholy strain.
"The Negro Girl" by Mary Darby Robinson

In news:

This wildlife oasis in suburban northern New Jersey is one of the best places in the Garden State to look for American Bittern and Virginia Rail.
Pull off Highway 101 west of Santa Barbara to watch Black-chinned Hummingbird, Virginia Rail, bitterns, sapsuckers, and breeding Western Kingbird, Black Phoebe, Spotted Towhee, and White-tailed Kite.
Dick Blume / The Post-Standard An American Bittern scours for food at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse this morning.
Black-necked stilts peer out from bright blades of green, hunkering low to avoid detection, and a American bittern tilts its beak skyward, showing off brown camouflaged stripes on its sides.
Egypt's political crisis spiraled deeper into bittern.