lit·​ter | \ ˈli-tər How to pronounce litter (audio) \

Definition of litter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a covered and curtained couch provided with shafts and used for carrying a single passenger a litter carried on the shoulders of four men— Edwin Tunis
b : a device (such as a stretcher) for carrying a sick or injured person The wounded soldier was carried to the rear by litter.
2a(1) : material used as bedding for animals Fibrous peat was used as litter for livestock.
(2) : material used to absorb the urine and feces of animals
b : the uppermost slightly decayed layer of organic matter on the forest floor
3 : the offspring at one birth of a multiparous animal a litter of puppies
4a : trash, wastepaper, or garbage lying scattered about trying to clean up the roadside litter
b : an untidy accumulation of objects a shabby writing-desk covered with a litter of yellowish dusty documents— Joseph Conrad


littered; littering; litters

Definition of litter (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

2 : to give birth to a litter of (young)
3a : to strew with scattered articles
b : to scatter about in disorder
c : to lie about in disorder their upside-down hats littered the top of the bar— Michael Chabon
d : to mark with objects scattered at random a book littered with misprints

intransitive verb

1 : to give birth to a litter
2 : to strew litter

Illustration of litter

Illustration of litter


litter 1a

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from litter


littery \ ˈli-​tə-​rē How to pronounce littery (audio) \ adjective

Examples of litter in a Sentence


We decided to pick up the litter in the park. Her desk was covered with a litter of legal documents.


Paper and popcorn littered the streets after the parade. a desk littered with old letters and bills It is illegal to litter. He had to pay a fine for littering.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In Midtown Manhattan, business improvement districts can contribute to the cost of maintaining the space created when streets are closed — the gardeners who tend the flowers, the trash collectors who pick up litter. James Barron, New York Times, "Lounge in Them. Dash Through Them. But Don’t Call Them Parks.," 13 July 2018 The budget includes hiring 15 employees to pick up litter. Sharon Coolidge,, "Cincinnati council members agreed on a budget. Here are the winners and losers.," 25 June 2018 Winter can make a real mess of your lawn, so start in early spring by cleaning up all the debris scattered across the yard, including twigs, acorns, stones, branches, litter, thatch and dead leaves. Joseph Truini, Popular Mechanics, "How to Get Your Lawn Ready for Spring," 22 Jan. 2019 As for her Western looks, Chopra will have her pick of the bridal litter, and top names like Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, Dior, Valentino, and more are likely all still in the mix. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Priyanka Chopra Goes Glam for Her Breakfast at Tiffany's Themed Bridal Shower," 29 Oct. 2018 The Standard-Times reported that the kittens — two females and four males — were from two separate, motherless litters, aged between a couple of days and a couple of weeks. Sarah Mearhoff, Teen Vogue, "A Texas Dog Who Acts Like a Mom to Kittens Is Recovering From a Car Accident," 28 Sep. 2018 Brown bears, of which grizzlies are a type, reproduce slowly and produce small litters, typically between one and three every few years. Jim Carlton, WSJ, "Grizzly Hunt Is Scratched in Wyoming and Fur Flies Over Bear Population," 26 Sep. 2018 In one study, Lyubomirsky and her colleagues asked subjects to perform small acts of kindness, such as picking up litter, weekly for four weeks. Brennan Kilbane, Allure, "How Random Acts of Kindness Can Improve Your Health and Wellbeing," 1 Aug. 2018 Some raced, others collected litter, searched for birds. Will Feuer,, "'Within this city..there is this beautiful river.' South Jersey canoe program aims to expand horizons and change lives," 8 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Designed by Jonathan Barnes Architecture and Design, the Sullivan House sits on a three-acre lot and takes cues from farm structures that have littered the landscape for the last two hundred years. Alex Bazeley, Curbed, "Modern farmhouse highlights glass and charred timber," 6 July 2018 The wall terminates at a series of crevasses that litter a 55-degree snowfield for a few hundred feet before aproning out into a flat expanse on the glacier. Matt Skenazy, Outside Online, "The Last Days of Marc-André Leclerc," 19 June 2018 The fireworks and lanterns that littered the final fight scene in front of the palace were beautiful in '90s-style 2-D animation. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, "20 reasons why the live-action ‘Mulan’ should be more like the animated musical," 18 June 2018 Lauren deduced the reviewer’s identity almost immediately; the former client gave himself away with the same dialectical misspellings that littered previous negative reviews on other review websites. Rick Paulas, Longreads, "Sex Workers vs. The Internet," 15 June 2018 The Huntington Beach Republican said instead of passing a law regulating restaurants, the Legislature should impose harsher punishments for people who litter. Washington Post, "Californians may have to request plastic straws at eateries," 30 May 2018 The sheer scale of the nefarious crap that litters Facebook is astonishing. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Why Facebook Should Be Held Legally Liable For Everything It Publishes," 23 May 2018 In all, 38 garbage-throwing fans who littered the pitch at the end of the recent 2-1 loss to rival Atlanta United FC have been suspended for a span of one to two full seasons — based upon the level of their obnoxiousness. Mike Bianchi,, "Kudos to Orlando City for trashing its garbage-throwing fans," 21 May 2018 Some players – like the quarterbacks that littered the top of the first round on Thursday night – fill a need that far surpasses their actual value as a prospect. Jim Owczarski,, "Instant analysis: Cincinnati Bengals draft Ohio State center Billy Price," 26 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'litter.' 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 litter


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for litter

Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Anglo-French litere, from lit bed, from Latin lectus — more at lie

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Statistics for litter

Last Updated

10 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for litter

The first known use of litter was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for litter



English Language Learners Definition of litter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: things that have been thrown away and that are lying on the ground in a public place
: a messy pile or group of things
: dry material that is spread in a container and used as a toilet by animals (especially cats) while they are indoors



English Language Learners Definition of litter (Entry 2 of 2)

: to cover (a surface) with many things in an untidy way
: to throw or leave trash on the ground in a public place


lit·​ter | \ ˈli-tər How to pronounce litter (audio) \

Kids Definition of litter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the young born to an animal at a single time a litter of pigs
2 : a messy collection of things scattered about : trash We picked up the litter in our neighborhood.
3 : material used to soak up the urine and feces of animals
4 : a covered and curtained couch having poles and used for carrying a single passenger
5 : a stretcher for carrying a sick or wounded person


littered; littering

Kids Definition of litter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to throw or leave trash on the ground
2 : to cover in an untidy way Leaves littered the yard.


lit·​ter | \ ˈlit-ər How to pronounce litter (audio) \

Medical Definition of litter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device (as a stretcher) for carrying a sick or injured person
2 : the offspring at one birth of a multiparous animal

Medical Definition of litter (Entry 2 of 2)

: to give birth to a litter of (young)

intransitive verb

: to give birth to a litter

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More from Merriam-Webster on litter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with litter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for litter

Spanish Central: Translation of litter

Nglish: Translation of litter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of litter for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about litter

Comments on litter

What made you want to look up litter? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to speak slightingly about or to degrade

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