pit·​tance | \ ˈpi-tᵊn(t)s How to pronounce pittance (audio) \

Definition of pittance

: a small portion, amount, or allowance also : a meager wage or remuneration

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It's a pity when you haven't anything but a pittance. And in fact, "pity" and "pittance" share etymological roots. The Middle English word pittance came from Anglo-French pitance, meaning "pity" or "piety." Originally, a "pittance" was a gift or bequest to a religious community, or a small charitable gift. Ultimately, the word comes from the Latin pietas, meaning "piety" or "compassion." Our words "pity" and "piety" come from "pietas" as well.

Examples of pittance in a Sentence

the internship offers only a pittance for a salary, but it is a great opportunity to gain experience
Recent Examples on the Web The size of the foreign support is also a pittance for a country with one million sick citizens. Jasper Craven, The New Republic, 28 June 2021 Other traffickers buy the kids from their impoverished parents for a pittance or trade them for a farm animal. Lisa Kristine, CNN, 3 July 2021 But one deal proved too frothy: Constellation spent $1 billion for craft brewer Ballast Point but sold it for a pittance just four years later. John Kell, Fortune, 1 July 2021 Supporters of the pay argue the incentives are a pittance compared to costs families are shouldering during the pandemic. Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press, 14 June 2021 That $257 billion is a pittance compared with the needs of the American people. Jeffrey Sachs, CNN, 1 June 2021 The current ones are catching a pittance of the overall heat-trapping emissions. Ken Silverstein, Forbes, 6 June 2021 And attorneys appointed to take those cases in Alabama at the time of the Clemons case were paid a pittance. Seth Freed Wessler, ProPublica, 28 May 2011 The hedge fund’s roughly $50 million in company shares is a pittance when weighed against the oil company’s market capitalization of nearly $247 billion. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'pittance.' 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 pittance

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for pittance

Middle English pitance, from Anglo-French, piety, pity, dole, portion, from Medieval Latin pietantia, from pietant-, pietans, present participle of pietari to be charitable, from Latin pietas piety — more at pity

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The first known use of pittance was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Pittance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pittance. Accessed 17 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for pittance



English Language Learners Definition of pittance

: a very small amount of money

More from Merriam-Webster on pittance

Nglish: Translation of pittance for Spanish Speakers


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