plural chavs
British slang, disparaging
: a young person in Britain of a type stereotypically known for engaging in aggressively loutish behavior especially when in groups and for wearing flashy jewelry and athletic casual clothing (such as tracksuits and baseball caps)
Like Eminem, Lady Sovereign is a poster child for the white lower-middle class. She's what's known in the London press as a "chav": a thieving, pot-smoking, gaudy-jewelry-wearing, white city kid with no ambition.Martin Edlund, New York Sun, 12 July 2005
Chavs take a lot of explaining, but stereotypical adjectives are: binge-drinking, bling-loving, boob-displaying, Burberry-wearing.Vogue, April 2006
"Chav"—the champion buzzword of 2004 in Britain, according to one language maven there—refers to something between a subculture and a social class. … the unofficial definition sounds rather condescending or even cruel: a clueless suburbanite with appalling taste and a tendency toward track suits and loud jewelry.Rob Walker, New York Times, 2 Jan. 2005
chavvy adjective
chavvier; chavviest
"She looked too chavvy and cheap on the first day of auditions," a source tells the Sun. "They want her to have a designer look with chic class—more Posh Spice than Vicky Pollard in Little Britain, which is how she has looked more than a few times." Marina Hyde, The Guardian (London), 7 June 2013
They might look like those white chavvy high-tops sold for 20 quid in discount sports stores. However, the shoes in question are made from the skins of exotic animals. Roxanne Sorooshian, Sunday Herald, 3 Mar. 2013

Word History


perhaps shortened from slang chavvy "baby, child," or from its source, Angloromani (creolized romani of Britain) chavvi "child," from British Romani čavo "(Romani) male child, boy, son," going back to Middle Indo-Aryan *chāpa- "young of an animal"

Note: Though the phonetic link with the Angloromani word is unimpeachable, the semantic connection is not—hence the etymology must be qualified as hypothetical. A proposed connection to the town of Chatham, with which the word is linked in early citations, seems dubious—see the evidence and etymology in Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition. // The presumed relation of *chāpa- with epic Sanskrit śāva- "young of an animal" is possible but far from certain.

First Known Use

1998, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of chav was in 1998

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Cite this Entry

“Chav.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2024.

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