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 litter (audio) \ adjective

Examples of litter in a Sentence

Noun We decided to pick up the litter in the park. Her desk was covered with a litter of legal documents. Verb 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 Tuft + Paw, which sells cat products like toys, litter boxes and beds, is offering a new Grove Cat Tower that acts as a perch and a place for furry friends to sleep. Zoe Malin, NBC News, "New & Notable: Latest from Away, West Elm, Keurig and more," 12 Apr. 2021 City officials have identified homeless encampments as one source of the litter, in part because the encampments are not visited by residential trash collection services. Nora Mishanec,, "San Jose looks to pay homeless people to pick up trash," 12 Nov. 2020 Until 2020, the litter was mostly cigarette butts and food wrappers. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "PPE pollution, bookmobile shots, sports TV refunds: News from around our 50 states," 24 July 2019 The cats each have two kennel spaces, one for lounging and one for their litter boxes. John Tuohy, The Indianapolis Star, "Check out Hamilton County's new $12M Humane Society in Fishers," 1 Apr. 2021 But that also means these furry pals fill their litter boxes with a highly concentrated solution, which includes a heavy dose of urea, a compound that forms when ammonia and carbon dioxide combine. Dan Seitz, Popular Science, "Master odor removal with a little help from science," 10 Mar. 2021 Pups are born in the spring (April to mid-May), and the average litter in the state is seven. Jesse Leavenworth,, "Aggressive coyote reportedly chased man walking his dog, second incident in the area," 10 Mar. 2021 Wear-and-tear was visible from the litter near the summit to the paint on the sign at the bottom of the hike that’s a popular spot for taking photos. New York Times, "In Hawaii, Reimagining Tourism for a Post-Pandemic World," 7 Mar. 2021 Wolves typically start targeting cattle and pets once the first or second litter of pups become full grown, Mech said. Greg Stanley, Star Tribune, "A pack of wolves thrived near Minneapolis; how it died offers lessons for the future," 6 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb These and other possessions litter the dirt path leading uphill from the Rio Grande. Anchorage Daily News, "The things migrants carried — and dropped — as they crossed the border," 11 Apr. 2021 Why would people litter or drive through a red light? Washington Post, "‘Why are there grown-ups who don’t wear masks?’ Don’t dismiss a child’s curiosity.," 7 Apr. 2021 Ed’s son, the dashing financier Alex (Paapa Essiedu), helps run an investment company that launders billions of dirty pounds into empty skyscrapers that litter the London skyline. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Gangs of London Is Your Next Great Crime Watch," 7 Apr. 2021 And then there are the asterisks that promise to figuratively litter the NFL record book. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "Six famous NFL records further jeopardized by 17-game season," 31 Mar. 2021 The watches themselves are spectacularly avant-garde in style, and the old advertising and other goodies that litter this image-heavy publication from Assouline make for a rather unique vantage point from which to view America in the 20th Century. Allen Farmelo, Robb Report, "From Cartier to Accutron: 5 New Books Every Watch Collector Should Own," 31 Mar. 2021 Once Bae goes bye, a swarm of servers appears to clean up the dozens of pieces of salt that litter the countertop and the floor. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, "Why you should go to Salt Bae’s new Dallas steakhouse Nusr-Et exactly one time," 17 Mar. 2021 Tim Crawley, co-chair of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association in Southeast Portland, said bags of garbage and discarded household items frequently litter the sides of the area’s commercial and residential streets alike. oregonlive, "Dumptown: How Portland’s trash problem spiraled out of control," 12 Mar. 2021 In combination with the four spectrometers that are built into the cam, the rover will be able to return valuable data about the objects that litter the surface of the Red Planet. Mike Wehner, BGR, "NASA’s new rover shot lasers at a Mars rock and recorded the audio," 11 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for litter

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for litter

Last Updated

26 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Litter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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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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