Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Lacking in importance or worth. See Synonyms at trivial.
  • adj. Wretched or contemptible.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. trashy, trivial, of little value
  • adj. meager; worthless; pitiful; trifling

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Mean; vile; worthless; despicable; contemptible; pitiful; trifling

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Mean; worthless; despicable: as, a paltry trifle; often in a mitigated sense, of little value of consequence.
  • Synonyms Despicable, Pitiful, etc. (see contemptible), insignificant, petty, miserable, wretched, trifling, trivial.
  • n. A wretched, worthless trifle.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. not worth considering
  • adj. contemptibly small in amount

Etymologies

Probably from obsolete and dialectal paltry, trash, perhaps from Low German paltrig, ragged, from palte, rag.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle Low German paltrig ("ragged, rubbishy, worthless"), from palter, palte ("cloth, rag, shred"), from Old Saxon *paltro, *palto (“cloth, rag”), from Proto-Germanic *paltrô, *paltô (“scrap, rag, patch”). Cognate with Eastern Frisian palterig ("ragged, torn"), German dialectal palterig ("paltry"). Compare also Low German palte ("rag"), West Frisian palt ("rag"), German dialectal Palter ("rag"), Danish pjalt ("rag, tatter"), Swedish palta ("rag"). See also palterly. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Haughty, proud, and uncompromising, though neither destitute of honor nor generosity, he despised and hated what he termed the paltry associations of herdsmen and shepherds, united with a few towns which subsisted chiefly by commerce; and instead of courting the Helvetian

    Anne of Geierstein

  • I listened to Ebenezer Ato Sam aka Baby Ansaba on myjoyonline. com on 2nd February 2010 and I must say that he is an archetypal example of what gutter Accra are incensed over what they describe as paltry salaries and poor working conditions.

    WN.com - Business News

  • Let us not fag in paltry works which serve our pot and bag alone.

    Archive 2008-11-01

  • As you know, of course, the U.S. being criticized for what some called a paltry and slow response to this humanitarian crisis.

    CNN Transcript Jan 2, 2005

  • Boston, which was once again paltry on the power play.

    NHL - National Hockey League - Ottawa vs. Boston

  • And then, you whine and fret for what you yourself call a paltry matter!

    Raspberry Jam

  • Small societies of excluded lepers live miserably in paltry huts.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

  • The King County Council called their paltry recommendation a "political victory" for us.

    Where The Blubber Meets the Road

  • Purnell claims he calculated that had the Brown squirt (I refuse to call his paltry measure a stimulus) been carried out in the 1990s there would have been 300,000 fewer on the dole.

    Davis / Purnell

  • Chief Justice Robert called the paltry current pay, quote, "a direct threat to judicial independence."

    CNN Transcript Jan 3, 2006

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Comments

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  • Paltry funeral: coach and three carriages.
    Joyce, Ulysses, 6

    January 1, 2007