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a paltry, underhanded scheme to get someone fired the hotel's shabby, outdated exercise room was its paltry attempt at a health spa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

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 OHA capitalizes on this, convincing some legislators that hospitals’ relatively paltry charity-care costs would be impossible to afford without Obamacare money. Jason Hart, National Review, "Ohio Hospitals Are Hooked on Obamacare," 13 July 2017 Such liquidity only now seems to be coming online in the Hanjin case, long after the damage has been done, and in relatively paltry amounts. Stephen J. Lubben, New York Times, "Lack of Planning Hampers Hanjin Shipping Bankruptcy," 15 Sep. 2016

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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Time Traveler for paltry

The first known use of paltry was in 1565

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More Definitions for paltry



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

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More from Merriam-Webster on paltry

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for paltry

Spanish Central: Translation of paltry

Nglish: Translation of paltry for Spanish Speakers

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