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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), German dialectal palterig (paltry). Compare also Low German palte (rag), West Frisian palt (rag), Saterland Frisian Palte (strip; band; tape), German dialectal Palter (rag), Danish pjalt (rag, tatter), Swedish palta (rag). See also palterly.


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paltry (comparative paltrier, superlative paltriest)

  1. trashy, trivial, of little value
    This is indeed a paltry flyer about a silly product.
    She made some paltry excuse and left.
  2. 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.
    • William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"
      "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick"

Usage notes[edit]

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