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[pawl-tree] /ˈpɔl tri/
adjective, paltrier, paltriest.
ridiculously or insultingly small:
a paltry sum.
utterly worthless.
mean or contemptible:
a paltry coward.
Origin of paltry
1560-70; < Low German paltrig ragged, equivalent to *palter rag (dialectal German Palter) + -ig -y1
Related forms
paltrily, adverb
paltriness, noun
unpaltry, adjective
Can be confused
paltry, poultry.
1. minor, inconsiderable, slight, insignificant. See petty.
1. important, major. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for paltry
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Duncan dismissed this paltry consideration with a princely gesture.

    The Fortune Hunter Louis Joseph Vance
  • What's that paltry hundred or two, compared with the millions I shall make?

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • Lugging a fellow up for a pitiful, paltry sum of twenty pounds!

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • The poor thing's vengeance was theatrical and paltry, but what of the man, wherever he was?

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • It was a paltry consolation, perhaps, but it was the best that then occurred to me.

    The Shame of Motley Raphael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for paltry


adjective -trier, -triest
insignificant; meagre
worthless or petty
Derived Forms
paltrily, adverb
paltriness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Low Germanic palter, paltrig ragged
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for paltry

1560s, probably an adjectival use of noun paltry "worthless thing" (1550s), associated with dialectal palt, pelt "trash," cognate with Middle Low German and East Frisian palte "rag," Middle Dutch palt "broken or torn fragment." Cf. Low German paltrig "rubbishy," East Frisian palterig "ragged, torn."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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