Litter is a mass noun that describes paper, cans, or general garbage that people throw in the street or any other public space. If we say "a litter of something," we mean that a space is covered with untidy objects. As a verb, litter means 'to throw garbage in the street' and also 'to leave objects lying around in a disorganized way.'
After the concert, the whole park was full of litter.
The kitchen table was a litter of dirty plates and mugs.
You can get a fine for littering in Hong Kong.
Jules never puts anything away; she litters her room with clothes and shoes and leaves books lying around the living room.
Words often used with litter
cat litter: absorbent material that cats use to urinate and defecate at home
litter box (US), litter tray (UK): the container where you put cat litter
litter bin (UK): a small trash can in public spaces
Commonly confused with
Litter refers to objects that have not been disposed of properly. Items that have been put in the appropriate place for collection would be called "rubbish" in the UK or "trash" or "garbage" in the US.
Litter dates back to the second half of the 13th century, as the Middle English word litere (bed). That word comes from the Medieval Latin word lectāria and the Anglo-French and Old French word litiere.
A litter is also a group of animals born at the same time. For other meanings, check out the full definition!