litany

noun
lit·​a·​ny | \ ˈli-tə-nē How to pronounce litany (audio) , ˈlit-nē\
plural litanies

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.

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A Short History of Litany

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.

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.

Recent Examples on the Web

Air travel is awful for a litany of reasons, from the very serious Boeing 787 controversy to all the not-as-serious canned air can dry out your skin. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "This Man Is Going Viral for Shaving His Head on a Flight," 23 Apr. 2019 How To Pick One Choosing from among the litany of options available at outdoor retailers looks impossible, but don’t worry. Kraig Becker, Popular Mechanics, "How to Set Up Camp," 2 Apr. 2019 Despite the litany of challenges, including the corruption investigations, Mr. Netanyahu is heavily favored to win the next elections, according to numerous polls. Dov Lieber, WSJ, "Israel Calls Early Elections as Netanyahu’s Coalition Collapses," 24 Dec. 2018 For a pair of earbuds that cost half the price of big name brands, the Brio surprisingly delivers a litany of notable features packed in a sleek package. Popular Mechanics, "These Wireless Earbuds Last 50 Hours Per Charge," 3 Apr. 2019 In office for 17 months, Moïse has been unable to lift Haiti out of its deep economic morass despite a litany of promises. Jacqueline Charles, miamiherald, "Haiti has put a fuel hike on hold. But is it enough to save the prime minister's job?," 7 July 2018 The country’s most iconic dishes are a proud litany of meats and animal products—corned beef with cabbage, bacon and cabbage, and lamb stew, just to name a few. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "There’s a Fresh Crop of Vegan Restaurants in Dublin," 15 Mar. 2019 But a litany of examples gaining steam on Twitter and other forums is highlighting how the underlying software is capable of making serious errors. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Tumblr is already flagging innocent posts as porn," 3 Dec. 2018 One requires a few paint rollers, and a can of paint while the other involves a litany of products, clear coats, primers, and sprayers. Anthony Alaniz, Popular Mechanics, "How to Paint a Car," 4 Feb. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of litany

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Dictionary Entries near litany

Liszt

lit

Litani

litany

litas

Lit B

litchi

Statistics for litany

Last Updated

15 May 2019

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Time Traveler for litany

The first known use of litany was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for litany

litany

noun

English Language Learners Definition of litany

: 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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More from Merriam-Webster on litany

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for litany

Spanish Central: Translation of litany

Nglish: Translation of litany for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of litany for Arabic Speakers

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