paltry

adjective

pal·​try ˈpȯl-trē How to pronounce paltry (audio)
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 restrictionsVanessa Feltz
4
: meager, measly
made a paltry donation
Sales have increased by a paltry two percent.
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a paltry, underhanded scheme to get someone fired the hotel's shabby, outdated exercise room was its paltry attempt at a health spa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 Snow there has been so paltry this winter, that even Nashville – 700 miles to the southeast of the Twin Cities – has had more. Mary Gilbert, CNN, 11 Feb. 2024 The Timberwolves were suffocating defensively, holding the Rockets to paltry 36 percent shooting from the field, including just 35 percent on 3-point attempts. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, 4 Feb. 2024 That is paltry compared with last year, when the main lodge received 220 inches of snow. Nathan Solis, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2024 Lineups with Gobert and Shake Milton score a paltry 97.5 points per 100 possessions. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, 28 Jan. 2024 Even creators who garnered millions of monthly views said the Fund paid paltry sums. Alexandra Sternlicht, Fortune, 29 Nov. 2023 Listeners who lamented last year’s paltry offering of blockbuster rap albums will be comforted to know that this year is already shaping up to be a major one. Nancy Dillon, Rolling Stone, 18 Jan. 2024 Excuses varied from preserving privacy for men and their business conversations to the argument that women’s paltry math skills could result in less tips for waitstaff. Allison Robicelli, Washington Post, 16 Jan. 2024 For most of a sloth’s nutritional needs, a paltry diet of leaves will have to make do. Max Bennett, Discover Magazine, 15 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'paltry.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of paltry was in 1565

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Dictionary Entries Near paltry

Cite this Entry

“Paltry.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paltry. Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

paltry

adjective
pal·​try ˈpȯl-trē How to pronounce paltry (audio)
paltrier; paltriest
1
: petty sense 3, mean
a paltry trick
2
: trivial sense 2, worthless
a paltry sum
paltriness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on paltry

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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