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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun There seems to be lots of interest in keeping roads litter-free, Kough said. Tim Harlow, Star Tribune, "I-94 work in downtown St. Paul could disrupt traffic for the next two summers," 26 Apr. 2021 Franklin Graham, the moral runt of Billy’s litter, compared the 10 lonely House Republicans who voted for Trump’s impeachment to Judas Iscariot, taking 30 pieces of silver in exchange for their immortal souls. Matt Labash, The New Republic, "An Epic Debate on Trump and True Evangelicalism," 5 Apr. 2021 Where litter is concerned, the Walt Disney principle would be in place: not a gum wrapper on the floor or ground. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "If I Owned a Sports Team," 31 Mar. 2021 Consumers should try to avoid single-use plastics, which waste resources, clutter landfills and too often become litter. cleveland, "More Cuyahoga County residents can now add plastic ‘tubs’ to curbside recycling," 11 Feb. 2021 The goal was to ensure that the deceased would be remembered—a strategy that had the unfortunate side effect of placing people’s resting places directly in the path of the city’s litter-leaving inhabitants. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Analysis of Pompeii’s Garbage Suggests the Ancient Romans Recycled, Too," 27 Apr. 2020 But here in a country with so little crime and such litter-free streets, this mess of graffiti becomes particularly interesting. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Escaping Coronavirus Lockdown Through a Stranger’s Solitary Walks on YouTube," 9 Apr. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The enzyme, reverse transcriptase, is encoded by LINE-1 elements, sequences that litter 17% of the human genome and represent artifacts of ancient infections by retroviruses. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "Further evidence offered for claim that genes of pandemic coronavirus can integrate with human DNA," 6 May 2021 New faces litter the roster for the Lightning, which lack in varsity experience but have some talented players to build around. Brent Kennedy,, "Howard County 2021 girls lacrosse preview," 4 May 2021 Like how many brands litter their products with meaningless marketing jargon—flippantly using terms such as gentle, soothing, and nonirritating—despite still containing irritants that are too harsh for skin as fragile as mine. Kaleigh Fasanella, Harper's BAZAAR, "I Have a Rare and Chronic Skin Condition. Does the Beauty Industry Care?," 3 May 2021 People in need of pet supplies, from wet and dry food to litter, can stop by. cleveland, "Berea animal shelter offers help during pandemic: Community Voices," 12 Mar. 2021 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about litter

Time Traveler for litter

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for litter

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Litter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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

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).


Test Your Vocabulary

Star Wars Words Quiz

  • cu jedi training
  • The bounty portion of bounty hunters (such as Boba Fett) comes from a Latin word meaning
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!