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See more synonyms for navvy on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural nav·vies. British Informal.
  1. an unskilled manual laborer.
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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

Related Words

laborer, roustabout, navvy

Examples from the Web for navvy

Historical Examples

  • 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.

  • 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 Dictionary definitions for navvy


noun plural -vies
  1. British informal a labourer on a building site, excavations, etc
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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

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."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper