- an unskilled manual laborer.
Origin of navvy
First recorded in 1825–35; short for navigator
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
Examples from the Web for navvy
A duke may become a navvy for a joke, but a clerk cannot become a navvy for a joke.Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens
G. K. Chesterton
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)
They came from the navvy shelter, and Tom could hear plainly every word.Chatterbox, 1905.</p>
It is pleasing to remember that a Navvy Battalion followed us!
But I had had no part nor lot in the preservation of that navvy's simple patriotism.The Message
Alec John Dawson
- British informal a labourer on a building site, excavations, etc
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
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