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Alternative forms[edit]


Probably from Middle English *palter (rag, trifle, worthless thing), from Middle Low German palter (rag, cloth). More at paltry.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɔːltə/, /ˈpɒltə/
  • (file)


palter (third-person singular simple present palters, present participle paltering, simple past and past participle paltered)

  1. To talk insincerely; to prevaricate or equivocate in speech or actions.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Iulius Cæsar”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act II, scene i]:
      Romans, that have spoke the word, / And will not palter.
    • 1855, Alfred Tennyson, Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington
      Who never sold the truth to serve the hour, / Nor paltered with eternal God for power.
    • 1922, Michael Arlen, “2/4/1”, in “Piracy”: A Romantic Chronicle of These Days[1]:
      But, with a gesture, she put a period to this dalliance—one shouldn't palter so on an empty stomach, she might almost have said.
    • 2010, Stephen Fry, The Fry Chronicles
      I would prevaricate and palter in my usual plausible way, but, this being Cambridge, such stratagems would cut no ice with my remorseless and (in my imagination) gleefully malicious interrogator, who would stare at me with gimlet eyes and say in a harsh voice that crackled with mocking laughter: ‘Excuse me, but do you even know who Lermontov is?’
  2. (now rare) To trifle.
  3. To haggle.
    • 1611, Cotgrave, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, p. 738.
      Herceler. Voyez to haggle, to dodge. N.b. Cotgrave defines herceler/harceler by example: "to haggle, hucke, hedge, or paulter long in the buying of commodity".
    • c. 1606, William Shakespeare, Macbeth. (uses palter in two senses: to haggle and to prevaricate)
      And be these juggling fiends no more believed, That palter with us in a double sense; That keep the word of promise to our ear, And break it to our hope.
  4. To babble; to chatter.

Derived terms[edit]