He showed us a perfectly authentic mission-card which certified that his family had received a pittance from some charitable organisation situated in the Whitechapel neighbourhood, and that, moreover, they were in the habit of receiving this pittance; and that, finally, their claim to such pittance was amply justified by the poverty of their circumstances.
-- E. E. Cummings, The Enormous Room, 1922
Each daughter can claim an income of 250 pounds, in case of marriage. It is evident, therefore, that if both girls had married, this beauty would have had a mere pittance, while even one of them would cripple him to a very serious extent.
-- Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, 1892
Pittance shares its root with the word pity. It entered English in the 13th century from the Latin pietatem meaning "piety," "loyalty" and "duty."