fliv·​ver ˈfli-vər How to pronounce flivver (audio)
: a small cheap usually old automobile

Did you know?

In 1908, Henry Ford changed the world with the Model T, the first affordable automobile. English speakers quickly coined an array of colorful terms for the Model T and the other relatively inexpensive cars that followed it. No one is sure why cheap cars came to be called "flivvers," but we do know that in the early 1900s that colorful term was also used as a slang verb meaning "to fail," as in "If this film flivvers, I'll be in trouble." In Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang, author Tom Dalzell lists "flivver" (which made its print debut in 1910, just two years after the Model T hit the streets) among a number of terms applied to "the humble Ford." Others included "bone crusher," "bouncing Betty," "Henry's go-cart," "puddle jumper," "Spirit of Detroit," and "Tin Lizzie."

Examples of flivver in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Eight thousand fans could fit in the bleachers and grandstands, with, as a novelty, room for people in 150 cars to watch the game from their flivvers. Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times, 28 Mar. 2023 In the background are two flivvers, which brought them there over bouncy roads. Frederick N. Rasmussen, baltimoresun.com, 30 Aug. 2019 Leader of the campaign is a white man, the county health officer, a former Georgia farm boy who drove a flivver through fields of mud, 36 miles a day to medical school. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, 25 July 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'flivver.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


origin unknown

First Known Use

1910, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of flivver was in 1910


Dictionary Entries Near flivver

Cite this Entry

“Flivver.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/flivver. Accessed 4 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


fliv·​ver ˈfliv-ər How to pronounce flivver (audio)
: a small cheap old automobile

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