pal·​try | \ ˈpȯl-trē How to pronounce paltry (audio) \
paltrier; paltriest

Definition of paltry

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.

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Other Words from paltry

paltriness noun

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.

Examples of paltry in a Sentence

a paltry, underhanded scheme to get someone fired the hotel's shabby, outdated exercise room was its paltry attempt at a health spa
Recent Examples on the Web Nirenberg raised a relatively paltry $85,000 in the last six months of 2020, campaign finance filings released Friday evening show. Joshua Fechter,, "San Antonio mayor’s race off to slow start as campaign dollars trickle in amid coronavirus pandemic," 15 Jan. 2021 Georgia Republicans are disappointed with what many consider to be paltry direct payments negotiated by the White House and Congress as part of last month's coronavirus economic relief package. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Georgia Republicans worry smaller stimulus checks could hurt Perdue and Loeffler in Senate runoffs," 4 Jan. 2021 Presidential spending alone, at more than $6.6 billion, is nearly three times as much as was spent in 2016, when candidates spent a comparatively paltry $2.4 billion, according to OpenSecrets, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research group. Tyler Van Dyke, Washington Examiner, "2020 election spending doubles previous record," 29 Oct. 2020 In the end, the scandal, which netted the bank a relatively paltry $600 million in fees, will cost Goldman and its current and former executives dearly. Matthew Goldstein, New York Times, "Goldman Sachs Malaysia Arm Pleads Guilty in 1MDB Fraud," 22 Oct. 2020 Neighboring Prince George’s County’s payback has been even more paltry— $3,800 as of mid-October, state data shows. Washington Post, "D.C. already has $90 million back from FEMA for fighting covid-19. So far, Fairfax County has $0.," 22 Oct. 2020 The government’s relatively paltry targets for renewables compound the worries. The Economist, "The reinvention of Japan’s power supply is making little headway," 21 June 2020 That total is the result of five separate, equally paltry snow days that started Dec. 9. Angela Fritz, Washington Post, "D.C. is No. 2 on the list of ‘snow losers’ this winter," 8 Feb. 2018 Gallup’s daily tracking poll, meanwhile, had Trump at an even paltrier 35% on Sunday, with 60% disapproval. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "Poll: Trump Even More Unpopular Than Before," 29 Oct. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of paltry

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for paltry

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

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The first known use of paltry was in 1565

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Last Updated

23 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paltry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for paltry


How to pronounce paltry (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of paltry

: very small or too small in amount
: having little meaning, importance, or worth


pal·​try | \ ˈpȯl-trē How to pronounce paltry (audio) \
paltrier; paltriest

Kids Definition of paltry

: 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

More from Merriam-Webster on paltry

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paltry

Nglish: Translation of paltry for Spanish Speakers

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