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[lit-er] /ˈlɪt ər/
objects strewn or scattered about; scattered rubbish.
a condition of disorder or untidiness:
We were appalled at the litter of the room.
a number of young brought forth by a multiparous animal at one birth:
a litter of six kittens.
a framework of cloth stretched between two parallel bars, for the transportation of a sick or wounded person; stretcher.
a vehicle carried by people or animals, consisting of a bed or couch, often covered and curtained, suspended between shafts.
straw, hay, or the like, used as bedding for animals or as protection for plants.
the layer of slightly decomposed organic material on the surface of the floor of the forest.
verb (used with object)
to strew (a place) with scattered objects, rubbish, etc.:
to be fined for littering the sidewalk.
to scatter (objects) in disorder:
They littered their toys from one end of the playroom to the other.
to be strewn about (a place) in disorder (often followed by up):
Bits of paper littered the floor.
to give birth to (young), as a multiparous animal.
to supply (an animal) with litter for a bed.
to use (straw, hay, etc.) for litter.
to cover (a floor or other area) with straw, hay, etc., for litter.
verb (used without object)
to give birth to a litter:
The cat had littered in the closet.
to strew objects about:
If you litter, you may be fined.
pick of the litter,
  1. the best or choicest of the animals, especially puppies, in a litter.
  2. the best of any class, group, or available selection.
Origin of litter
1250-1300; Middle English litere bed, litter < Anglo-French; Old French litiere < Medieval Latin lectāria, equivalent to Latin lect(us) bed + -āria feminine of -ārius -er2
Related forms
litterer, noun
antilitter, adjective
antilittering, adjective
de-litter, verb (used with object)
unlittered, adjective
Can be confused
letter, lighter, liter, litter.
2. clutter. 9. mess (up). 10. disarrange, derange.
Synonym Study
3. See brood. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for littering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • As the day went on, I often sat with them up to my shoulders, and littering all the patio.

    Much Darker Days Andrew Lang (AKA A. Huge Longway)
  • The flowers on the box caught at branches and twigs, falling, littering the route.

    When the Owl Cries Paul Bartlett
  • On the other hand, animals sometimes suffer in littering, and even die of it.

    Instigations Ezra Pound
  • He had a grand time, revelling with pen and pad and littering the floor with inked sheets unnumbered and still wet.

    When Winter Comes to Main Street

    Grant Martin Overton
  • Writing tools and desk he had already collected; there were plenty of these littering the building in every corner.

    "Unto Caesar" Baroness Emmuska Orczy
  • The starboard wing, parting from the lifeboat, had gashed a tree trunk, littering the ground with branches.

    West Of The Sun Edgar Pangborn
British Dictionary definitions for littering


  1. small refuse or waste materials carelessly dropped, esp in public places
  2. (as modifier): litter bin
a disordered or untidy condition or a collection of objects in this condition
a group of offspring produced at one birth by a mammal such as a sow
a layer of partly decomposed leaves, twigs, etc, on the ground in a wood or forest
straw, hay, or similar material used as bedding, protection, etc, by animals or plants
a means of conveying people, esp sick or wounded people, consisting of a light bed or seat held between parallel sticks
to make (a place) untidy by strewing (refuse)
to scatter (objects, etc) about or (of objects) to lie around or upon (anything) in an untidy fashion
(of pigs, cats, etc) to give birth to (offspring)
(transitive) to provide (an animal or plant) with straw or hay for bedding, protection, etc
Word Origin
C13 (in the sense: bed): via Anglo-French, ultimately from Latin lectus bed
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for littering

1540s, of animals, "process of bringing forth young in a single birth," verbal noun from present participle of litter (v.). Meaning "act of furnishing with bedding" is from c.1600. That of "act of dropping litter" is from 1900.



c.1300, "a bed," also "bed-like vehicle carried on men's shoulders" (early 14c.), from Anglo-French litere "portable bed," Old French litiere "litter, stretcher, bier; straw, bedding," from Medieval Latin lectaria "litter" (altered in French by influence of lit "bed"), from Latin lectus "bed, couch," from PIE *legh-to-, from root *legh- "to lie" (see lie (v.2)).

Meaning extended early 15c. to "straw used for bedding" (early 14c. in Anglo-French) and late 15c. to "offspring of an animal at one birth" (in one bed); sense of "scattered oddments, disorderly debris" is first attested 1730, probably from Middle English verb literen "provide with bedding" (late 14c.), with notion of strewing straw. Litter by 19c. had come to mean both the straw bedding and the animal waste in it after use.



late 14c., "provide with bedding," from litter (n.). Meaning "to strew with objects" is from 1713. Transitive sense of "to scatter in a disorderly way" is from 1731. Related: Littered; littering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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littering in Medicine

litter lit·ter (lĭt'ər)

  1. A flat supporting framework, such as a piece of canvas stretched between parallel shafts, for carrying a disabled or dead person; a stretcher.

  2. The offspring produced at one birth by a multiparous mammal. Also called brood.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for littering


Related Terms

pocket litter

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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