[ lit-n-ee ]
/ ˈlɪt n i /

noun, plural lit·a·nies.

a ceremonial or liturgical form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations or supplications with responses that are the same for a number in succession.
the Litany, the supplication in this form in the Book of Common Prayer.
a recitation or recital that resembles a litany.
a prolonged or tedious account: We heard the whole litany of their complaints.

Nearby words

  1. lit up,
  2. lit-crit,
  3. lit.,
  4. lit.b.,
  5. lit.d.,
  6. litas,
  7. litchi,
  8. litchi nut,
  9. lite,
  10. liter

Origin of litany

before 900; < Late Latin litanīa < Late Greek litaneía litany, Greek: an entreating, equivalent to litan- (stem of litaínein, variant of litaneúein to pray) + -eia -y3; replacing Middle English letanie, Old English letanīa < Medieval Latin, Late Latin, as above

Can be confusedlitany liturgy Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for litany

British Dictionary definitions for litany


/ (ˈlɪtənɪ) /

noun plural -nies

  1. a form of prayer consisting of a series of invocations, each followed by an unvarying response
  2. the Litanythe general supplication in this form included in the Book of Common Prayer
any long or tedious speech or recital

Word Origin for litany

C13: via Old French from Medieval Latin litanīa from Late Greek litaneia prayer, ultimately from Greek litē entreaty

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

Word Origin and History for litany



c.1200, from Old French letanie and directly from Medieval Latin letania, Late Latin litania (cf. Spanish letania, Italian litania), from Greek litaneia "litany, an entreating," from lite "prayer, supplication, entreaty," of unknown origin. From notion of monotonous enumeration of petitions in Christian prayer services came generalized sense of "repeated series," early 19c., borrowed from French.

For those who know the Greek words, a litany is a series of prayers, a liturgy is a canon of public service; the latter in practice includes prayer, but does not say so. [Fowler]
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Culture definitions for litany


In many religions, a ritual repetition of prayers. Usually a clergyman or singer chants a prayer, and the congregation makes a response, such as “Lord, have mercy.”

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.