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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. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for paltry
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The glare of the conflagration showed the Orangists by how paltry a force they had been surprised.

  • What's that paltry hundred or two, compared with the millions I shall make?

    The Channings Mrs. Henry Wood
  • You've got to swallow it because Uncle Dorgeroux's fame must be made to soar above all these paltry trifles.

    The Three Eyes Maurice Leblanc
  • The poor thing's vengeance was theatrical and paltry, but what of the man, wherever he was?

    The Christian Hall Caine
  • Old Heriot looks too close into business to permit me more than the paltry and ordinary dues.

    The Fortunes of Nigel Sir Walter Scott
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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