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.
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
He has a litany of grievances against his former employer.
The team blamed its losses on a litany of injuries.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'litany.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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
What made you want to look up litany? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).
Confusing Words—A Quiz