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[spiv] /spɪv/
noun, British Informal.
a petty criminal, especially a black marketeer, racetrack tout, or petty thief.
Origin of spiv
1885-90; back formation from dial. spiving smart; perhaps akin to spiffy Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for spiv


(Brit, slang) a person who makes a living by underhand dealings or swindling; black marketeer
Derived Forms
spivvy, adjective
Word Origin
C20: back formation from dialect spiving smart; compare spiffy, spiffing
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 spiv

"petty crook who will turn his hand to anything so long as it does not involve honest work," 1934, British slang, probably dating back to late 19c. and connected with spiff (see spiffy) in one of its various senses. Being a flashy dresser was a spiv characteristic.

The spiv reached his apotheosis during World War II and the succeeding years, when the disrupted economic conditions allowed ample scope for unofficial trading (a pair of nylons here, a few packets of cigarettes there) and other petty crime. He became a stock figure in the English social comedy, represented on screen by such stereotypes as 'Flash Harry' (played by George Cole) in the St. Trinian's films and Pte. Walker in Dad's Army. [Ayto, "20th Century Words"]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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