Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Chiefly British Slang One, usually unemployed, who lives by one's wits.
  • n. Chiefly British Slang One who shirks work or responsibility; a slacker.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a smartly dressed person who trades in illicit, black-market or stolen goods
  • n. a flashy con artist, often homeless, who lives by his wits
  • n. in Scotland Yard usage, a low and common thief
  • n. a slacker; one who shirks responsibility

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a person without employment who makes money by various dubious schemes; goes about smartly dressed and having a good time

Etymologies

Dialectal spif, dandified, dandy.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Perhaps from spiff, spiffy. 'Spiv' was the nickname of Henry Bagster, a Londoner arrested a number of times in 1904-6 for activities as described below, and may have been the archetype. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Author of the thunderous ongoing recitatif, the spiv recital, its shill featurettes and occasions... John Latta, Isola di Rifiuti

    June 5, 2007