- See under bittern1(def 1).
- any of several tawny brown herons that inhabit reedy marshes, as Botaurus lentiginosus (American bittern), of North America, and B. stellaris, of Europe.
- any of several small herons of the genus Ixobrychus, as I. exilis (least bittern), of temperate and tropical North and South America.
- any wading bird of the genera Ixobrychus and Botaurus, related and similar to the herons but with shorter legs and neck, a stouter body, and a booming call: family Ardeidae, order Ciconiiformes
- the bitter liquid remaining after common salt has been crystallized out of sea water: a source of magnesium, bromine, and iodine compounds
heron-like bird, 13c., botor, from Old French butor “bittern,” perhaps from Gallo-Romance *butitaurus, from Latin butionem “bittern” + taurus “bull” (see steer (n.)); according to Pliny, so called because of its booming voice, but this seems fanciful. Modern form from 1510s.