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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle Low German paltrig (ragged, rubbishy, worthless), from palter, palte (cloth, rag, shred), from Old Saxon *paltro, *palto (cloth, rag), from Proto-Germanic *paltrô, *paltô (scrap, rag, patch). Cognate with Low German palterig (ragged, torn), dialectal German palterig (paltry). Compare also Low German palte (rag), West Frisian palt (rag), Saterland Frisian Palte (strip; band; tape), dialectal German Palter (rag), Danish pjalt (rag, tatter), Swedish palta (rag). See also palterly.


  • (Canada) IPA(key): /ˈpɑltɹi/
  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɒltɹi/, /ˈpɔːltɹi/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɔltɹi/, /ˈpɑltɹi/
  • (file)


paltry (comparative paltrier, superlative paltriest)

  1. Trashy, trivial, of little value.
    Synonyms: insignificant, unimportant, petty, trivial
    This is indeed a paltry flyer about a silly product.
    She made some paltry excuse and left.
    • 1921, Edward Sapir, Language: An introduction to the study of speech:
      There are a great many languages, like Eskimo and Nootka and, aside from paltry exceptions, the Semitic languages, that cannot compound radical elements.
  2. Of little monetary worth.
    Synonyms: meager, worthless, pitiful, trifling
    Could someone hope to survive on such a paltry income?
    Student grants these days are paltry, and many students have to take out loans.
    • 1928, William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium:
      "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick"
  3. Despicable
    A paltry coward.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Nouns to which "paltry" is often applied: sum, rate, amount, number, price, salary, wages, fellow, pay, excuse, income, gain, compensation.

Derived terms[edit]