"mean, worthless, despicable," 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." Similar formation in Low German paltrig "rubbishy," East Frisian palterig "ragged, torn."
"small measure of strong spirits," 1796, slang shortening of nipperkin (1670s) "quantity of beer or liquor of a half pint or less," possibly of Dutch or Low German origin (compare German Nipp "sip, taste") and related to nip (v.). Reinforced by nip (n.2) in its secondary sense of "fragment or bit pinched off" (c. 1600).
"a pinch; a sharp bite," 1540s, from nip (v.). Sense of "a small bit of anything, fragment or bit pinched off" is from c. 1600. Meaning "a chill in the weather" is from 1610s, probably so called for its effect on vegetation. Nip and tuck "a close thing," especially a close approach to equality in the results of a horse race or any competition, is recorded by 1847, American English, perhaps an image from sailing or tailoring.
late 14c., "a bit or fragment, small part or division of a whole, minute portion of matter," from Latin particula "little bit or part, grain, jot," diminutive of pars (genitive partis) "a part, piece, division" (from PIE root *pere- (2) "to grant, allot"). In grammar, "a part of speech considered of minor consequence or playing a subordinate part in the construction of a sentence" (1530s). Particle physics, which is concerned with sub-atomic particles, is attested from 1969. In construction, particle board (1957) is so called because it is made from chips and shavings of wood.