Definition of litter in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈlidər/


1Trash, such as paper, cans, and bottles, that is left lying in an open or public place: fines for dropping litter
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.
garbage, refuse, junk, waste, debris, scraps, leavings, fragments, detritus, trash, rubbish
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, heap, disorder, untidiness, confusion, disarray
informal shambles
2The group 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
Image of litter
3Material forming a surface-covering layer, in particular.
3.1 (also cat litter) Absorbent material, typically in granular form, used to line a shallow receptacle in which a cat can urinate and defecate when indoors.
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.
3.2Straw or other plant matter used as bedding for animals.
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.
3.3 (also leaf litter) Decomposing but recognizable leaves and other debris forming a layer on top of the soil, especially in forests.
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.
4 historical A vehicle 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;
4.1A stretcher, 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) untidy with rubbish or a large number of objects left lying about: clothes and newspapers littered the floor
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, be strewn about, be scattered about
informal make a shambles of
1.1 (usually be littered) 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 (a text, history, etc.) with examples of something 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.
fill, pack, load, clutter
2 archaic Provide (a horse or other animal) with litter as bedding.



Example sentences
  • A spokesman said: ‘If residents are found guilty in the local court, then the council will consider naming and shaming these people in the local newspaper as a deterrent to other dog walkers or litterers.’
  • After a while, I noticed some DD batteries (the big fat ones) rolling around the floor of the carriage, and an old man next to me picked one up, grumbling about careless litterers.
  • The litter wardens will be on full alert and litterers will be named and shamed.


Middle English (sense 4 of the noun): from Old French litiere, from medieval Latin lectaria, from Latin lectus 'bed'. sense 1 of the noun 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

Syllabification: lit·ter

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