Main Entry: spiv
Etymology: alteration of English dial. spiff flashy dresser, from spiff dandified
Date: circa 1934
1 British : a man who lives by his wits without regular employment
2 British : slacker 1
— spiv·vy \ˈspi-vē\ adjective, British
This seems to be related to spiff, spiffy, dandy, etc. Just wondering where the "spif" root comes from?
A discussion of slang and the changes it undergoes.
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- Grand Panjandrum
- Posts: 3072
- Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
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I kept confusing spiv with shiv, which is a knife, often used of homemade knives, especially in prison. So far as I can find, neither word has a solid etymology, but seems to have arisen from the underworld, including both criminal and the poor. Slang, obviously.
My understanding of spiv is a harsher one than eberntson's citaion. I have heard and used this word from childhood to include sharps, sharks, scammers, and general low life on the border of, if not actually, criminal. In recent Googling I find a harsher definition than eberntson's in some of the entries. If I were in England, I would avoid people known to be spivs. One of my cousins is named Spivey. He lived in Australia for several years, and frequently got negative reactions to his name. I know a upstanding gentleman named Fant. Perry knows him also. When Fant was on a plane to Norway, the flight attendant did a doubletake on his name and then asked him if he knew Norwegian. He said he knew some and enough to know the definition of Fant. She suggested he might want to change his name. Fant told me that a fant in Norway is something like a spiv in England. He didn't change his name.
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