Litija was mentioned in written documents in 1256 as apud Litigiam and apud Lvtyam (and as Lutya in 1363, Littai in 1431, Luttey in 1444, and propre Lutiam in 1480). Medieval transcriptions indicate that the name was originally *Ljutija, derived from *Ľutoviďa (vьsь) (literally, 'Ľutovidъ's village'). Suggestions that -ija is a suffix or that the name is derived from German Lutte '(mining) drain' are less likely. Other pseudoetymologies include Johann Weikhard von Valvasor's suggestion that the name evolved from litus, the Latin word for 'riverbank'. The town was officially known as Littai in German until 1918.
Litija developed as a trading post between Trieste, Ljubljana, and Croatia. The town gained market rights in the 14th century. In Roman times mining developed in Litija and remained one of the primary sources of income until the 1965, when the biggest of the mines closed. In 1849 the Austrian Southern Railway reached Litija and boosted its economy. This development, however, also meant a decline in some of the traditional local professions. The Litija post office was opened in December 1852. After the Second World War, Litija annexed the formerly independent settlements of Podsitarjevec, Gradec (German: Grazdorf), Grbin (German: Gerbin), and Podkraj.
Notable people that were born or lived in Litija include:
Litija lies on both banks of the Sava River