litter

[lit-er]
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noun

verb (used with object)

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.

Idioms

    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 formslit·ter·er, nounan·ti·lit·ter, adjectivean·ti·lit·ter·ing, adjectivede-lit·ter, verb (used with object)un·lit·tered, adjective
Can be confusedletter lighter liter litter

Synonyms for litter

2. clutter. 9. mess (up). 10. disarrange, derange.

Synonym study

3. See brood.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of litter

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British Dictionary definitions for litter

litter

noun

  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

verb

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)
(tr) to provide (an animal or plant) with straw or hay for bedding, protection, etc

Word Origin for litter

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

Word Origin and History for litter
n.

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.

v.

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

Medicine definitions for litter

litter

[lĭtər]

n.

A flat supporting framework, such as a piece of canvas stretched between parallel shafts, for carrying a disabled or dead person; a stretcher.
The offspring produced at one birth by a multiparous mammal.brood
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.