Definition of litter in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlɪtə/


1 [mass noun] Rubbish such as paper, cans, and bottles left lying in an open or public place: always clear up after a picnic and never drop litter [as modifier]: a litter bin
More example sentences
  • We all can put an end to litter in Kerry by simply disposing of rubbish in our bin and not leaving or throwing litter in a public place.
  • This new council administration which took over following the last election claims to be the party who will clean the borough up and get tough on the general public who drop litter in our streets.
  • Every time the bridge opens, any litter dropped on the deck will automatically roll into special traps.
rubbish, refuse, junk, waste, debris, odds and ends, scraps, leavings, fragments, detritus, flotsam, discarded matter, dross, muck;
North American  trash, garbage
1.1 [in singular] An untidy collection of things lying about: a litter of sleeping bags on the floor
More example sentences
  • But for today's students, it is not long before the celebrations turn to dread - and the congratulations cards are replaced by a litter of repayment demands.
  • We rose the next morning to a litter of downed branches and crooked trunks.
clutter, jumble, muddle, mess, tangle, heap, disorder, untidiness, confusion, hotchpotch, disarray, disorganization, disarrangement, turmoil
informal shambles
rare olla podrida
2A number of young animals born to an animal at one time: a litter of five kittens
More example sentences
  • 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.
brood, family;
young, offspring, progeny, issue
rare progeniture
3 (also cat litter) [mass noun] Absorbent material, typically in granular form, used to line a shallow receptacle in which a cat can urinate and defecate when indoors: [as modifier]: a plastic litter tray
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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.
Example sentences
  • 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.
sedan chair, palanquin;
stretcher, portable bed/couch
5.1A framework with a couch for transporting the sick and wounded.
Example sentences
  • 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]
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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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
More example sentences
  • 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.

  • The earliest, medieval meaning of litter was ‘a bed’, which was also that of its source, Latin lectus. Its journey to the modern sense ‘rubbish lying in a public place’ took until the mid 18th century. The link is bedding made of straw or rushes, once used by poorer people, who put it down on the floor and then discarded it when soiled. A litter of animals such as kittens probably gets its name from the mother's giving birth in a sheltered sleeping place.

Words that rhyme with litter

bitter, committer, critter, embitter, emitter, fitter, flitter, fritter, glitter, gritter, hitter, jitter, knitter, permitter, pitta, quitter, remitter, sitter, skitter, slitter, spitter, splitter, submitter, titter, transmitter, twitter, witter

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: lit¦ter

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