[ chav ]
/ tʃæv /
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noun Chiefly British Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
a young person who wears fashionable sportswear or flashy jewelry but is regarded as badly behaved or as having lower-class taste.
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Origin of chav

First recorded in 1995–2000; perhaps shortening of British slang chavvy “baby, child,” or from Romani chavo “(Romani) boy, youth, unmarried man” or Romani chavi “baby, child,” probably from unrecorded Middle Indic chāva, chāpa “young of an animal,” from Sanskrit śāva


chav·ish, chav·vy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does chav mean?

Chavs is a UK derogatory slang word for a young hooligan who wears designer clothes and starts fights, usually seen as lower class.

Where does chav come from?

Chav appears to come from chavi, the word for “child” in Romany English. While reported in northeast England in the early 1990s, one early written use of chav was on the Usenet group uk.local.kent in 1998, where a user posted: “Traveling from Maidstone to Chatham every day was bad enough. I was born in Brompton so am I a Chav or what?”

In 2002, chavs appeared in an article in the British Observer, where it was used to refer to girls from Chatham, a town in Kent in South East England, who wore fancy jewelry and were viewed as sexually promiscuous. Due to the link to Chatham, some wrongly claimed chav comes from the combination of the words: “Chatham average.”

Chav spread in the UK in the early 2000s to stereotype a kind of youth, especially males, who wear label sportswear and act in a brash, confrontational manner. The slang wigger is something of an American equivalent, as is ned in Scotland or scanger in Ireland.

In 2004, Oxford Dictionaries named chav their first ever Word of the Year, thrusting it into a greater spotlight.

Chav is controversial, though, as it comes with pejorative class associations and helps fuel class divisions. The slang typically targets lower-class people in the UK. Some characterized the 2011 England riots as an attack by chavs on decent society. Blogs and websites such Chavtowns and iLiveHere “chronicle” poorer neighborhoods that are supposedly home to chavs.

How is chav used in real life?

Chavs is commonly used by certain residents of the UK to complain about so-called chavs and their petty-criminal or drunken behavior, often during association football matches.

Sometimes, the female chavette is also said to cause problems.

Nobody likes a hooligan, but be mindful that chavs is considered derogatory, loaded with classism.

More examples of chav:

“A vice-chairman of the Conservative Party said that the police should use water cannon to play “splat the chav” during the London riots, it emerged yesterday.”
—Henry Zeffman, The Times, January, 2018


This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

British Dictionary definitions for chav

/ (tʃæv) /

Southern English informal, derogatory a young working-class person whose tastes, although sometimes expensive, are considered vulgar by some

Derived forms of chav

chavish, adjective

Word Origin for chav

perhaps from Romany chavi a child
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