1530s, "speak indistinctly" (a sense now obsolete), a word of unknown origin. It has the form of a frequentative, but no verb palt is known. Connection with paltry is uncertain. Via the notion of "talk in a trifling manner, babble," hence "talk insincerely," comes the sense "play fast and loose" (c. 1600), also transitive, "trifle away, squander" (1620s). Related: Paltered; paltering; palterer.