- 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.
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)
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