Definition of litter in English:


Line breaks: lit¦ter
Pronunciation: /ˈlɪtə


  • 2A number of young animals born to an animal at one time: a litter of five kittens
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    • Females nurse their young, but will also nurse the young of their female relatives in the pride if litters are born close together.
    • They are apparently social, with young sometimes remaining with the parents while subsequent litters are born and raised.
    • High juvenile mortality often leads to conception of a second litter of offspring, born from December to April.
  • 3 (also cat litter) [mass noun] Granular absorbent material lining a tray in which a cat can urinate and defecate when indoors: [as modifier]: a plastic litter tray
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    • And you do wonder - especially when Adam overturns a tray of cat litter on his spouse - why did these people ever get married?
    • Don't flush paper towels, feminine sanitary products and other slow-to-degrade materials, like cat litter, in the toilet.
    • Many laboratories use absorbent cat litter for immediate control of spills.
  • 4 [mass noun] Straw or other plant matter used as bedding for animals: the plant burns discarded litter from poultry farms
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    • Burn the straw litter from infected herds or allow long term manuring [greater than 1 year] to occur before spreading it onto land used to produce food for animal consumption.
    • In either case, the amount of manure or used litter accumulated over a year's time is quite surprising.
    • Larvae cluster in dark corners under manure or litter, under feed sacks or under feed in feed storage areas.
    animal bedding, bedding, straw, floor covering
  • 4.1 (also leaf litter) Decomposing but recognizable leaves and other debris forming a layer on top of the soil, especially in forests: the spiders live in leaf litter
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    • Other types, also harmless, live in soil and leaf litter and are important decomposers.
    • Good gardening practice would be to leave a layer of leaf litter on the soil between shrubs and trees in garden beds.
    • All three species use the digging technique of jumping backward off of both feet at the same time, which really stirs up the soil, leaf litter, or grass.
  • 5 historical A structure used to transport people, containing a bed or seat enclosed by curtains and carried on men’s shoulders or by animals.
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    • He was carried about on a litter and coached soccer.
    • Large judicial minkisi such as Mangaaka were treated as though they were chiefs, even carried in litters, and therefore sometimes wear miniature ngongi as earrings, a mnemonic of the respect due them.
    • Panting, I fleetingly envied a couple being carried on litters like lords, an expensive yet terrifying (what if a porter slipped?) option.
  • 5.1A framework with a couch for transporting the sick and wounded.
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    • In the medical evacuation role, the aircraft can transport 24 litters (stretcher patients) and four medical crew.
    • In a medical evacuation role the helicopter can carry three medical crew and six litters or stretcher patients.
    • The cabin provides accommodation for 11 fully equipped troops or four litters (stretcher patients) with a medical officer for medical evacuation missions.


[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Make (a place or area) untidy with rubbish or a large number of objects left lying about: clothes and newspapers littered the floor the sitting room was littered with books
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    • Soon the whole place was littered with clothes and magazines and cosmetics.
    • Rather than play down the danger, he happily reported that the entire area is littered with countless land mines.
    • The place is absolutely littered with homemade bombs and land mines.
    make untidy, mess up, make a mess of, clutter up, throw into disorder, be strewn about, be scattered about, be jumbled, be disarranged
    informal make a shambles of, trash
    literary bestrew, besmirch
  • 1.1 [with object and adverbial] Leave (rubbish or a number of objects) lying untidily in a place: there was broken glass littered about
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    • A tiny object compared with the size of galaxy blew through the funnel furiously, littering molten debris behind its wake.
    • The subway tunnel was half-lit as garbage was littered literally everywhere.
    • The drains are all open and garbage is littered everywhere.
  • 1.2 (usually be littered with) Fill with examples of a particular thing, typically something bad or unpleasant: news pages have been littered with doom and gloom about company collapses
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    • History, past and present, is littered with examples of all that.
    • Creation is littered with examples like this, at all kinds of levels.
    • But the figures were littered with inaccuracies.
  • 2 archaic Provide (a horse or other animal) with litter as bedding.


Middle English (in sense 5 of the noun): from Old French litiere, from medieval Latin lectaria, from Latin lectus 'bed'. Sense 1 dates from the mid 18th century.

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