Definition of spiv in US English:



  • A man, typically characterized by flashy dress, who makes a living by disreputable dealings.

    • ‘In the foreground, the spivs of spin hawk their pretty baubles.’
    • ‘One of the choicest ironies is that he now speaks with disapproval about black marketeers, spivs and touts and unofficial operators, and has nothing but praise for his new friends in the RFU.’
    • ‘A bored telemarketer teams up with a mate for a get-rich scam that takes on all the get-richer spivs.’
    • ‘My new government of troglodytes, murderers and spivs barely elongates the customary scream I give upon waking.’
    • ‘Glass cites the example of the Soviet Union, whose old nomenklatura may now be numbered among ‘the tyrants and spivs of the succeeding capitalist order’.’
    • ‘She would recount how it was possible to buy anything - from meat, chocolate, cigarettes and the obligatory ‘nylons’ - from the spivs and black market racketeers.’
    • ‘The single exceptions (apart from the wicked spiv who finds the girls) are the only two working-class characters who show any signs of aspiration or youth.’
    • ‘Martin Clunes plays George Haigh, a wartime spiv who murdered nine people and dissolved their bodies in acid.’
    • ‘Regulars will be dressing up for the occasion too - as everything from wartime spivs to army officers and nurses.’
    • ‘They watched in wonder as bankers, industrialists and assorted spivs piled up more and more riches.’
    • ‘What such a history would particularly need to convey in relation to higher education is the paradigm shift brought about since 1992 by the increasing influence of the spivs in suits (aka managers).’
    • ‘Get rid of these dreadful spivs with their electric guitars and let's up the current affairs quota!’
    • ‘Lincoln thought twice about extending her sportsmanship to helping the sepultural spiv up as she realized this would be seen as a demoralizing gesture rather than a respectful one.’
    • ‘Guys like him are part of the English culture - he's like the spiv from the Second World War.’
    • ‘I thought the art of the spiv had died out years ago.’
    • ‘That, and the simple fact that anybody with a gimmick on prime-time TV is bound to be a hit no matter what they do, whether it's nuns and paintings or suited spivs with antiques.’
    • ‘Harry is fed up being confused, alarmed and he finds he has seized the little weasel, the little spiv and ground him like pretzel against the dividing panel.’
    • ‘Another accusation thrown at the market is that its light regulatory touch could open the door to spivs and hopeless cases.’
    • ‘Chairman of the Mid-Hants Watercress Line, David Snow, dressed as a spiv for the occasion, said the weekend was a resounding success with the first day attracting bigger crowds than last year.’
    • ‘Dire circumstances gave social sanction to small scale corruption and spivs were simultaneously despised and admired as buccaneers.’


1930s: perhaps related to spiffy.