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

The order also found peeling paint on portions of the exterior trim and loose litter on the front and rear porches. Frederick Melo, Twin Cities, "St. Paul officials order mayor’s rental home be repaired and registered vacant," 14 June 2019 Mechanical systems, such as Mr. Trash Wheel, a litter interceptor in Maryland’s Baltimore Harbor, can be effective at picking up large pieces of plastic, such as foam cups and food containers, from inland waters. Laura Parker, National Geographic, "The world's plastic pollution crisis explained," 12 June 2019 Those 10 products — which could include such items as shopping bags and disposable utensils — would be determined based on state litter surveys. Dustin Gardiner,, "California takes on an ocean of plastic waste, considers crackdown on industry," 12 June 2019 By their first hour, the crew had filled the back of a pickup with large plastic bags stuffed with litter. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Program hiring homeless for tash pickup expands," 11 June 2019 Let’s be responsible with our litter and properly dispose of these balloons and nylon strings., "Community News For The Colchester Edition," 7 June 2019 May 2019) Alytes obstetricans, the common midwife toad, may be as small as a bar of hotel soap with skin as drab as leaf litter, yet its life story is, quite simply, one for the ages. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, "Natalie Angier," 9 May 2019 Ned Stark found six direwolf pups in the side of the road and gave one to each of his children, and Jon received Ghost, the runt of the litter. Ineye Komonibo, Marie Claire, "Why Didn't Jon Snow Say Goodbye to Ghost the Direwolf on 'Game of Thrones'?," 8 May 2019 Collecting litter When walking in a beautiful urban park in Richmond, Va., I was saddened by the piles of trash that had gathered in the nooks between large rocks on a river. Anna Marden,, "5 tips for an eco-friendly road trip," 19 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

For years, cities and towns asked landscape architects to avoid planting female trees, which bear fruit or seed pods that can litter sidewalks and muck up car windshields. Lauren Fox,, "Pollen is getting worse, and climate change is the culprit," 14 June 2019 In a week the Indianapolis Colts’ General Manager and his staff will look to attack the holes that litter his roster. Zak Keefer, Indianapolis Star, "Chances the Colts' own free agents return in 2018," 6 Mar. 2018 The property, which the Neals littered with battered cars, TV sets and other junk, became the eyesore of Bobcat Lane. Dale Kasler, Anita Chabria And Ryan Sabalow, sacbee, "'Nobody had to die.' Neighbors say Tehama sheriff ignored year of terror before shootings | The Sacramento Bee," 13 Apr. 2018 Together, Kim and Martinez drove around the city as Martinez pointed out the many homeless encampments, all littered with trash and debris. Aurelie Corinthios,, "Kim Kardashian West Says KUWTK Episode Inspired $1 Million Donation to Homeless Shelter," 10 Jan. 2018 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

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

21 Jun 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 take the place or position of

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