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