Tidbit vs. titbit

  • In American and Canadian English, tidbit is the preferred spelling of the noun referring to (1) a choice morsel or (2) a pleasing bit of something. Titbit is preferred everywhere else. Neither spelling is right or wrong. Titbit is older, but tidbit is etymologically justifiable (the first syllable likely comes from the archaic colloquialism tid, meaning tender). And tidbit is not so new itself; it was well established in American English by the early 1800s.



    North America


    While researching the Marquis de Sade several years ago, I came across an intriguing biographical tidbit. [New York Times]

    Any mixed messages to be had from that tattoo-related tidbit are easy to clear up, however. [Vancouver Sun]

    Press a button, and you’ll unlock a tidbit about a particular town. [Washington Post]

    Outside North America

    Apart from a few titbits about his lavish travel expenses, there were questions about his friendship with dodgy dictators and arms dealers. [Guardian]

    One titbit concerned the 12th hole, which has played as the second most difficult in the tournament so far. [Irish Times]

    Still, Moore has a remarkable memory for past conversations and the juicy titbit. [Sydney Morning Herald]


    1. When I was a kid growing up in Canada, I always thought the actual word was Timbit. Thanks, Tim Hortons.

    2. Neil McMillan says

      I blame bowdlerisation of the 19th century for this change in accepted spelling and pronunciation. This word was changed because in slang ‘tit’ is the name often used to refer to a singular woman’s breast; but we do still say ‘tit for tat’ and
      ‘tittle-tattle,’ terms that are related to the root meaning of ‘tit.- ‘a little’ or ‘a choice morsel’

    3. Binky The Horse says

      So tidbit predates, after all, any possibility of the prudish avoidance of the word tit (meaning boobies since 1928). Fascinating.

      However, tidbit is catching on outside America. Prudish tit avoiders are everywhere. I say bring back the tits.

      Your etymological justification, like most, is unnecessary and speculative. It probably has nothing to do with the word’s origins. I wish people would leave that stuff out, even when they admit that it is speculative. I say this because it is immensely frustrating, trying to find real and reliable etymological research, primarily because of all the invented excrement to be waded through first.

      We don’t know; we don’t know; we don’t bloody know. Admi, tit.

    4. Titbits are titillating news. There is no word called “tidillating”, so there should be no “tidbits”.

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