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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Did You Know?

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

After an hour of waiting—a pittance, really, since many fans on the mountain spend nights camping out—the roar of a race helicopter signals the arrival of the race leader. Jason Gay, WSJ, "Tour de France Mountain Madness, and Me," 19 July 2018 Ticket prices were set deliberately low, as little as 15 euros, or $18, even before youth and other discounts; the most expensive box seat typically is no more than €120, undiscounted, a pittance by the standards of major opera houses. Rod Nordland, New York Times, "Not Just a Pretty Facade, Palermo’s Opera Is an Anti-Mafia Symbol," 12 Mar. 2018 The Tax Foundation finds that a 70% tax rate on incomes over $10 million would increase federal revenue by less than $30 billion a year over the coming decade—a pittance compared with the more than $800 billion deficits expected this year. Edward Conard, WSJ, "The Crippling Cost of 70% Tax Rates," 21 Jan. 2019 Investors who in previous cycles gave a pittance publicly are now committing a few tens of thousands of dollars — not enough to move the needle in a race, but real movement from the past. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Ten big Silicon Valley money players behind this November’s U.S. midterm elections," 20 Aug. 2018 Only 50 Light Riders will be made, and they can be reserved for €2,000 which translates into a pittance at $2,244. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "This Stunning Motorcycle Was 3D Printed From Aluminum Powder," 20 May 2016 First, in comparison to the astronomical cost of space missions, naming rights would bring in a relative pittance. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: Lots of losers in small launch, Air Force award, Red (Bull) Mars," 7 Sep. 2018 Native eventually secured $550,000 from professional and individual investors, a relative pittance in the startup world where $100 million funding rounds and billion dollar valuations are discussed in a way that could sound like the norm. Jason Del Rey, Recode, "The rise of giant consumer startups that said no to investor money," 29 Aug. 2018 His administration has been selling off debt held by government entities, including accounts receivable, for a pittance of its worth, the United States officials said, and has pocketed the cash, leaving Venezuela’s finances in shambles. New York Times, "As Trump Adds Sanctions on Venezuela, Its Neighbors Reject Election Result," 21 May 2018

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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Dictionary Entries near pittance

pit stop







Statistics for pittance

Last Updated

5 Mar 2019

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Time Traveler for pittance

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

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More Definitions for pittance



English Language Learners Definition of pittance

: a very small amount of money

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More from Merriam-Webster on pittance

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for pittance

Spanish Central: Translation of pittance

Nglish: Translation of pittance for Spanish Speakers

Comments on pittance

What made you want to look up pittance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


grandiloquent, ostentatious, or bombastic

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