Definition of litany
- the Litany of the Saints
- a litany of cheering phrases
- —Herman Wouk
- a familiar litany of complaints
- a litany of problems
- The drug has a litany of possible side effects.
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He has a litany of grievances against his former employer.
The team blamed its losses on a litany of injuries.
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Litany came to English through Anglo-French and Late Latin, ultimately from the Greek word litaneia, meaning "entreaty." Litany refers literally to a type of prayer in which a series of lines are spoken alternately by a leader and a congregation. This use dates to the 13th century. Between that century and the 20th, three figurative senses developed. The chant-like quality of a literal litany led first to a "repetitive chant" sense. Next, the repetitious—and sometimes interminable—nature of the original litany led to a "lengthy recitation" sense. Finally, the "lengthy recitation" sense was extended to refer to any sizable series or set.
First Known Use: 13th centurySee Words from the same year
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