adjective, pal·tri·er, pal·tri·est.

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 formspal·tri·ly, adverbpal·tri·ness, nounun·pal·try, adjective
Can be confusedpaltry poultry

Synonyms for paltry

Antonyms for paltry Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paltry

Contemporary Examples of paltry

Historical Examples of paltry

  • 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 or -triest

insignificant; meagre
worthless or petty
Derived Formspaltrily, adverbpaltriness, noun

Word Origin for paltry

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

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