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

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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a paltry, underhanded scheme to get someone fired the hotel's shabby, outdated exercise room was its paltry attempt at a health spa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 As Hollywood chooses between content and communication following last year’s petrifying lockdowns, the 2021 Midyear Reckoning seems relatively paltry. Armond White, National Review, 9 July 2021 For a time the municipal tax base was so paltry that Elliston turned its lights off. Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor, 25 Aug. 2021 The next largest in terms of its nucleus—Hale-Bopp, which wowed stargazers in 1997—measured a relatively paltry 60 kilometers across. Jonathan O'callaghan, Scientific American, 30 June 2021 Employees in the hospitality industry are quick to point out that pay is still paltry compared with that in other fields. Washington Post, 2 July 2021 The decision comes soon after a ProPublica published an exposé of the relatively paltry taxes paid by America’s billionaires. Robert Hackett, Fortune, 14 June 2021 But can a six year-old startup with only 150 employees and a relatively paltry—by aerospace standards—$270 million in funding build a supersonic jet from scratch? Fortune, 15 June 2021 This after the stock ticked up a comparatively paltry 4.4% on Tuesday to $6.36 per share, with a measly 9 million trades against Wednesday’s 200 million. - Investing Reimagined, Forbes, 10 June 2021 The extremely paltry rainy season has resulted in more than half of the region receiving below 50% of average rainfall, leading to widespread drought conditions, with most of the state now in extreme or exceptional drought. Kellie Hwang, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 June 2021

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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Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Paltry.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Oct. 2021.

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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 Fleishman, The Whipping Boy

More from Merriam-Webster on paltry

Nglish: Translation of paltry for Spanish Speakers


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