Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
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.
litter lit·ter (lĭt'ər)
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. Also called brood.
(Heb. tsab, as being lightly and gently borne), a sedan or palanquin for the conveyance of persons of rank (Isa. 66:20). In Num. 7:3, the words "covered wagons" are more literally "carts of the litter kind." There they denote large and commodious vehicles drawn by oxen, and fitted for transporting the furniture of the temple.
portable bed or couch, open or enclosed, that is mounted on two poles and carried at each end on the shoulders of porters or by animals. Litters, which may have been adapted from sledges that were pushed or dragged on the ground, appear in Egyptian paintings and were used by the Persians; they are mentioned in the Book of Isaiah. Litters were also common in the Orient, where they were called palanquins. In ancient Rome, litters were reserved for empresses and senators' wives, and plebeians were forbidden to travel in them. By the 17th century, litters were plentiful in Europe; protection and privacy were provided by canopies held up by poles and by curtains or leather shields. The introduction of spring-mounted coaches ended the need for litters except as transport for the sick and wounded.