paltry

adjective pal·try \ ˈpȯl-trē \

Definition of paltry

paltrier; paltriest
1 :inferior, trashy
  • built paltry houses unfit for occupancy
2 :mean, despicable
  • a paltry trick
3 :trivial
  • a paltry excuse
  • they in their greatness don't have to bother with such paltry restrictions
  • —Vanessa Feltz
4 :meager, measly
  • made a paltry donation
  • Sales have increased by a paltry two percent.

paltriness

noun

paltry was our Word of the Day on 03/04/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of paltry in a Sentence

  1. a paltry, underhanded scheme to get someone fired

  2. the hotel's shabby, outdated exercise room was its paltry attempt at a health spa

Recent Examples of paltry from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'paltry.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Before "paltry" was an adjective, it was a noun meaning "trash." That now obsolete noun in turn came from "palt" or "pelt," dialect terms meaning "a piece of coarse cloth," or broadly, "trash." The adjective "paltry" first meant "trashy," but currently has a number of senses, all generally meaning "no good." A "paltry house" might be run-down and unfit for occupancy; a "paltry trick" is a trick that is low-down and dirty; a "paltry excuse" is a trivial one; and a "paltry sum" is small and insufficient.

Origin and Etymology of paltry

obsolete paltry trash, from dialect palt, pelt piece of coarse cloth, trash; akin to Middle Low German palte rag


PALTRY Defined for English Language Learners

paltry

adjective

Definition of paltry for English Language Learners

  • : very small or too small in amount

  • : having little meaning, importance, or worth


PALTRY Defined for Kids

paltry

adjective pal·try \ ˈpȯl-trē \

Definition of paltry for Students

paltrier; paltriest
:of little amount, value, or importance
  • “I will not be exchanged for such a trifle. My mere weight? A paltry treasure you could carry on a shoulder?”
  • —Sid Fleischman, The Whipping Boy


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