What does shiv mean?


A shiv is a knife, especially a switchblade. It is most often used to refer to improvised blades made in prison and the act of stabbing inmates with them.

Examples of shiv


Examples of shiv
I broke one of my rules earlier today and went into Trader Joe's (on a holiday!) -- looked like a prison riot and I was without my shiv!
@elitejano, September 2008
Dough Boy was the shot-caller, or the leader of his respective tribe, responsible for everything from negotiating with other factions to approving a well-placed shiv in someone’s abdomen.
Tim Alberta, Politico Magazine, September 2018

Where does shiv come from?

The Specialists LTD

Shiv originates in British thieves’ slang term for a “knife,” chive or chiv, dating back to the 17th century. It is thought that chive and chiv are rooted in a Romany word for “blade.”

Shiv is an American English version of chive showing up as early as 1897. In an essay by commonly called “The Road,” Jack London profiles the lives of American homeless people. He defines a lot of hobo slang, including shiv for”knife.”

Shiv (shivved) has been used as a verb since at least 1930s. In the story “Dream Street Rose” by Damon Runyon, for instance, a character is shivved (“stabbed”) by another. Shiv spread as a slang term in prisons, especially for knives fashioned out of material at hand.

Who uses shiv?

Shiv is most often used to refer specifically to homemade knives in prison. Shiv is used alongside another slang word, shank, to describe these deadly weapons.

Some helpful YouTube videos will even show you how to make your own shivs in the comfort of your own home…though using them may send you straight to the Big House.

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