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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

10419 Appendix John Bartlett

QUOTATION:Bitter end.
ATTRIBUTION:This phrase is nearly without meaning as it is used. The true phrase, “better end,” is used properly to designate a crisis, or the moment of an extremity. When in a gale a vessel has paid out all her cable, her cable has run out to the “better end,”—the end which is secured within the vessel and little used. Robinson Crusoe in describing the terrible storm in Yarmouth Roads says, “We rode with two anchors ahead, and the cables veered out to the better end.”