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From Middle English pitaunce, from Old French pitance, pitence, from Medieval Latin *pietāntia, from Latin pietās (piety).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɪtəns/, [ˈpʰɪʔn̩s]
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: pit‧tance


pittance (plural pittances)

  1. A small allowance of food and drink; a scanty meal.
  2. A meagre allowance of money or wages.
    • 1838 (date written), L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], chapter VII, in Lady Anne Granard; or, Keeping up Appearances. [], volume I, London: Henry Colburn, [], published 1842, →OCLC, page 74:
      In the very prime of life, Mr. Glentworth found every prospect gone; he had only a meagre pittance, compared to his former expenditure; but he had neither the habits nor the opportunity of increasing it.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, chapter 5, in Moonfleet, London, Toronto, Ont.: Jonathan Cape, published 1934:
      So I went to keep house with him at the Why Not? and my aunt sent down my bag of clothes, and would have made over to Elzevir the pittance that my father left for my keep, but he said it was not needful, and he would have none of it.
    • 2012, David Walliams [pseudonym; David Edward Williams], Ratburger, London: HarperCollins Children’s Books, →ISBN:
      Dad was forced to claim benefit money from the government. It was a pittance, barely enough to live on.
  3. A small amount.
    • 2022 September 24, Sam Jones, “Ill-fated Spanish village poised to be destroyed a third time”, in The Guardian[1], →ISSN:
      The former residents of Fraguas, who sold up for a pittance, have swung behind the resettlement, happy to see life return to the narrow lanes where they grew up.

Derived terms[edit]


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