Definition of litany
1 : a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation <the Litany of the Saints>
2a : a resonant or repetitive chant <a litany of cheering phrases — Herman Wouk>b : a usually lengthy recitation or enumeration <a familiar litany of complaints>c : a sizable series or set <a litany of problems> <The drug has a litany of possible side effects.>
Examples of litany in a sentence
He has a litany of grievances against his former employer.
The team blamed its losses on a litany of injuries.
Did You Know?
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.
Origin and Etymology of litany
Middle English letanie, from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French, from Late Latin litania, from Late Greek litaneia, from Greek, entreaty, from litanos supplicant
First Known Use: 13th century
LITANY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of litany for English Language Learners
: a prayer in a Christian church service in which the people at the service respond to lines spoken by the person who is leading the service
: a long list of complaints, problems, etc.
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