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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). Of uncertain ultimate origin, but perhaps from Proto-Indo-European *polto- (cloth), see also Proto-Slavic *poltьno (linen).

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.



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.
    • c. 1589–1590 (date written), Christopher Marlo[we], edited by Tho[mas] Heywood, The Famous Tragedy of the Rich Iew of Malta. [], London: [] I[ohn] B[eale] for Nicholas Vavasour, [], published 1633, →OCLC, Act I:
      As for those Samnites, and the men of Uz,
      That bought my Spanish oils and wines of Greece,
      Here have I purs'd their paltry silverlings.
      Fie, what a trouble 'tis to count this trash!
    • 2022 July 8, Daniel Boffey, “Collapsing public support suggests Brexit is anything but done”, in The Guardian[1]:
      Meanwhile, the trade deal has left Britain’s fishing communities screaming betrayal, unhappy with their paltry gains and facing expensive barriers to export what they have caught.
  3. Despicable; contemptibly unimportant.
    a paltry coward
    • 1928, William Butler Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium:
      "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick"

Derived terms[edit]