bit

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun the smallest single unit in binary notation, either a 0 or a 1

Agriculture

  • noun the metal part of a bridle, placed in a horse’s mouth to give the rider control over the animal

Cars & Driving

  • noun part of a tool for boring or cutting, especially the interchangeable tip of a drill or the blade of a screwdriver

Computing

  • noun the smallest unit of data that a system can handle
  • noun smallest single unit in binary notation, either a 0 or a 1.

Construction

  • The tool that fits into a brace or drill and is rotated to bore a hole.
  • On a soldering iron, the (usually copper) tip that heats the joint and melts the solder.
  • That part of a key that is inserted into a lock and engages the tumblers or bolt.

Electronics

  • Acronym for binary digit. The smallest unit of information a digital computer can handle. A bit may have a value of 0 or 1, and eight consecutive bits form one byte. Bits are also used to indicate capacity or speed. For instance, a 256-bit CPU which can simultaneously processes 256 bits at a time, or a communications connection speed of 10 Gbps. its abbreviation is b. Also called storage cell (2).
  • synonymbinary digit

Media Studies

  • noun a binary digit, either ‘0’ or ‘1’. More bits indicate more digits in a string, which means more possible combinations, so that a 24-bit palette of colours will have more shades and combinations available than a 16-bit palette.

Slang

  • adjective disappointed, resentful. A folksy version of ‘bitter’ or ‘bitten’ used by country people and poor blacks (in pre-war slang it usually meant ‘cheated’); adopted as part of preppie language in the 1970s.

Law

  • acronym forbilateral investment treaty
    (written as BIT)
  • noun treaties between two countries to promote and protect private investments between those two countries.

Origin & History of “bit”

there are three distinct nouns bit in English, but the two most ancient ones are probably both related ultimately to the verb bite. Bit as in ‘drill bit’ (OE) originally meant simply ‘bite’ or ‘biting’. The Old English word, bite, came from Germanic *bitiz, a derivative of the verb *bītan ‘bite’. The ‘drill bit’ sense did not develop until the 16th century. The bit placed in a horse’s mouth is probably the same word. Bit meaning ‘small piece’ (OE) also comes from a Germanic derivative of *bītan, in this case *biton; this gave Old English bita ‘piece bitten off’. The more general sense, ‘small piece’, developed in the 16th century. The third bit, ‘unit of computer information’ (20th c.), is a blend formed from ‘binary digit’.
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