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90s Slang You Should Know


[nav-ee] /ˈnæv i/
noun, plural navvies. British Informal.
an unskilled manual laborer.
Origin of navvy
First recorded in 1825-35; short for navigator Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for navvy
Historical Examples
  • Suppose two lads, fresh from school, go out into the world to earn their living; one becomes a navvy and one a clerk.

  • And I was a navvy before the war, and joined up for a change.

    Pushed and the Return Push George Herbert Fosdike Nichols, (AKA Quex)
  • Mind you, I dont think it has the same effect on a navvy, a miner, or any sort of manual labourer.

    John Brown Captain R. W. Campbell
  • They came from the navvy shelter, and Tom could hear plainly every word.

  • But there was nothing of the navvy in his swinging stride or in the resolute poise of his head as he came up with Winthrope.

    Into the Primitive Robert Ames Bennet
  • The navvy was not simply going away, he had the air of a man in flight.

    Messengers of Evil Pierre Souvestre
  • Thus there was profit of the affair, though the navvy sank out of sight.

  • He slipped through with a forceful push and caught the navvy by his jacket.

    Messengers of Evil Pierre Souvestre
  • The doctor, the schoolmaster, and the professor will be paid (in labour-cheques) at the same rate as the navvy.

    The Conquest of Bread Peter Kropotkin
  • "I feel worse than I've ever felt," said the navvy, with suddenness.

    The Day's Work, Volume 1 Rudyard Kipling
British Dictionary definitions for navvy


noun (pl) -vies
(Brit, informal) a labourer on a building site, excavations, etc
Word Origin
C19: shortened from navigator, builder of a navigation (sense 4)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for navvy

"laborer on a canal or railroad," 1832, colloquial shortening of navigator (q.v.) in its sense of "one who digs navigation canals."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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