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 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

These trucks and pickups are often a major source of litter on our roads. Gary Richards, The Mercury News, "Warrior fans who want to park near Chase Center — forget about it: Roadshow," 6 Sep. 2019 The lanes nearby were noticeably free of litter, and many of the houses freshly painted. David Brown, Washington Post, "In Morocco, 44 hours of lingering in a small village leaves a big impression," 30 Aug. 2019 His story is told as a flashback starting when Denny first picks him out of a litter. Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "Here's how much I cried watching the new dog movie 'Art of Racing in the Rain'," 9 Aug. 2019 The zoo announced that Blakely, an Australian Shepherd, is helping the neonate staff care for a baby cheetah that was the lone survivor of a litter. Sarah Brookbank,, "Cincinnati Zoo's nursery dog Blakely comes out of retirement to care for cheetah cub," 2 Aug. 2019 Back from the Port Blair seafront, up a side alley paved with small rainbows of litter, is the Hotel Lalaji Bayview, a turquoise building where rooms with a bed, a fan, a shower, and clean sheets start at 800 rupees ($11.50). Alex Perry, Outside Online, "The Last Days of John Allen Chau," 24 July 2019 The litter is being raised by the only two adult wolves in the Phoenix Zoo, Tazanna, the mother, and Tulio, the father, who are both 3 years old. Andrew Nicla, azcentral, "Endangered Mexican gray wolf population boosted by 6 pups at Phoenix Zoo," 5 June 2019 If marine litter is your biggest concern, paper bags are better because paper degrades and doesn’t stick around for years. Alessandra Potenza, The Verge, "Are cotton totes better for the Earth than plastic bags? It depends on what you care about," 12 May 2018 In March, the 17-year-old senior from Milpitas High School organized about 100 students to pick up litter at Pioneer Mobile Home Park. Lauren Kim, The Mercury News, "How Teen Activists Respond to the World’s Largest Existential Crisis, Climate Change," 20 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Andy Dalton and the starting offense never really found a rhythm in three drives in large part because of the flags that littered the field. Tyler Dragon,, "What we learned from the Cincinnati Bengals' 23-13 win over the Washington Redskins," 16 Aug. 2019 Her prognostication: The hoop-earring and multiple-piercing trends that litter social media will fade, setting the stage for the button’s return. Rebecca Malinsky, WSJ, "Jackie Kennedy’s Favorite Earrings Are Back," 10 July 2019 But my first blush with this about Sandman came from a surprisingly geeky source: Soulseek, one of the many peer-to-peer file-sharing apps that littered the post-Napster landscape. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "The DMCA bell did not toll for a beloved musician—thus, I could grieve him," 6 July 2019 And its suite of cameras, drills and scientific instruments will probe the nature of the organic molecules that litter the mysterious surface. Amina Khan,, "NASA to send huge Dragonfly drone to search for life on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon," 27 June 2019 Eventually, those became the icons, banners, and badges that litter our smartphones today. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "A Brief History of Smartphone Notifications," 26 June 2019 While the 2019 schedule is littered with tough games, arguably the three most difficult games — Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State — will all take place at Michigan Stadium. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan Wolverines football 2019 game-by-game predictions," 25 Aug. 2019 Shaped like a miniature amphitheater, Pecorini's one road is littered with squashed lemons that give a drifting aroma of pine and sherbet. Antonia Quirke, Condé Nast Traveler, "These Islands Near Sicily Might Be the Last Uncrowded Part of Italy," 22 Aug. 2019 Shapiro: Texas’s history is littered with impact running backs, and sophomore Keaontay Ingram may be next in line to emerge on the national scene. The Si Staff,, "2019 College Football Crystal Ball: Playoff Picks, Darkhorse Predictions and More," 21 Aug. 2019

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

Statistics for litter

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for litter

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

See more words from the same century

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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