The bitter end’ means the very end and comes from a nautical term. Anchor cable was wrapped around posts called bitts. The bitt end (or bitter end) refers to the final part of the anchor rope near to where the rope is fixed to the ship’s deck. Usually marked with coloured rags, the bitter end derives its name from the bollards (or bitts) on the deck to which the anchor rope is tied.
When sailors lowered the anchor, and it came across the rags on the bitter end, they knew there was no more rope left, meaning the water was too deep to set anchor and there was nothing else they could do. They had reached the end of their resources and were at the very end.
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