Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search

Etymology discussion[edit]

I have updated the etymology section, the word originated in Dartford in Kent around 1974 and is based on the Irish (mis)pronunciation of the word 'achieve', this spread through the unlikely phrase 'Mon Caka CHAVy Dick Aye' which was an 'in joke' on gypsy culture by working class people in North Kent. Unlikely as it may sound there are many people that remember this, and its transition to the noun 'Chav'.

The words journey to popular culture is amusing as are some of the theories that have sprung up surrounding it's origin.

The etymology is unclear, but the word probably has Romany origins – compare Romany chavo ‘male child’, chavi ‘female child’, chal ‘boy’, chavvy ‘mate, friend’. It thus may be related to charva (from Romany charver ‘prostitute’), and Spanish chaval (which does not have pejorative connotations). It seems to have originated in the south-east and may represent a development of, or influence from, certain towns names including Chatham (which has a Romany community), Cheltenham or Chaddesden. More doubtful theories include the notion that it comes from Nigerian-London slang chaff ‘lower-class person’. As the word became more widespread, a variety of backronyms have also been suggested (Council Housed And Violent, Council House Associated Vermin, etc.), all equally unsubstantiated

In the north east of England young people have been using the word "chava" to describe such a person. I have heard its use may go back to early 20th century, but have absolutely no clear evidence for this. I have been trying to introduce the female version "chavette", but I think it probaly takes more than one middle-aged woman to spread a new word!

  • Is the definition "(British, derogatory) Commonly believed to have origins as a slang term used to describe Chatham girls in England." really another theory regarding the etymology? If so, it should be moved to the Etymology section. — Paul G 16:34, 14 Apr 2005 (UTC)
    • It does appear that way. I've moved it. See what you think. Uncle G 10:11, 15 Apr 2005 (UTC)
      • Excellent - great job! — Paul G 15:15, 15 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I'm interested in comments on my hypothesis that chav comes from the Hebrew word Chaverim, meaning 'kids', and comes into working-class London usage through the East-End Jewish mobs, who shared the affection for vulgar and extravagant ostentation in dress and jewellry that is part of the modern chav categorization.

  • This is far more convincing than the more frequently-heard etymologies. I'm pretty accustomed to hearing the Hebrew word 'Charver' in the sense of 'comrade'--perhaps, given how popular chav has become with the publishing /media complex as a way of bashing the poor, people don't want to remember its Jewish roots. A simple Google search for 'Charver' should suffice to show how established it is as a comradely Jewish greeting.~~

The gipsy explanation is mainly correct, but you use contrary male where female and female where male has to be.--Janosch Wisser 00:40, 3 May 2006 (UTC)

  • Spanish "chavo" isn't pejorative, but "chavo banda" is -- could this be related? --Nametag 08:01, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Also used in the Sham 69 song Hersham Boys in 1979, but as Chavy--
  • In the Polish Romany, ciawa (pronounced chavah) is the name for a man of Gypsy blood, as opposed to others, non-Gypsies... If you are a Gypsy, you just call yourself ciawa.

During my school years in South West England in the early 1990s we used the word trev instead of chav. I remember chav slowly taking over nearing 2000. I'd not even heard the word chav up till that point. I had always assumed they were related given the similar ending. Not exactly a strong argument but it seemed worth adding. 03:01, 26 September 2011 (UTC)

I come from a lower class working family with gypsy roots from Chatham, Kent. The word "chavies" has been used by grandparents and aunties since I can remember going back to the 80s. It has always been used as a derogatory way to describe children, often being used against other people's children and not your own. An example I remember an aunt using around 1990 - "I aint brought up no chavvies". For someone else to describe your children as a chavvy would have been extremely offensive, could even cause a fight. My mother and aunt stopped speaking for a few years because of such an argument about each others' "chavvies". My grandmother has confirmed this has been the case since she was young. Speaking to my younger aunts and uncles, there was a point for them during the 70s and 80s, that the word seemed to be reclaimed by teenagers and young adults (mostly male) as a sort of term of endearment, similar in the way the word "Nigger" has evolved in the US. The term Chavvy for many has the same meaning as friend or mate. "Alright my chavvy boy", "Oi Chavvy" were common ways men in my family or their friends would greet each other but you never would hear this used by anyone middle/lower middle class to refer to each other. You'd rarely hear women in my family using this in such a way either. I went to a Grammar School growing up in the late 90s, early 2000s so I had a unique perspective seeing how the word was used locally by middle class to describe the lower/working class and then how it entered pop culture. The reason why this form of derogatory way of using the term chav is because you'd hear the kinds of people like the men in my family calling each other chavvy so much and so the middle class simple used it as a way to describe those kinds of men and their female relatives. "Pikey" and "Chav" are almost synonymous in their meaning locally when used in this way except "Pikey" being a stronger form. Then once a few national newspaper articles and a website called "Chatham Girls" appeared around the 2000s, the derogatory way to describe lower working class "Chavs" spread further around the UK and entered pop culture to where it is now.


How about pronunciation? Dictionaries need pronunciation guides, and I've no idea how to say this word!

Yo geez, da word is pronounced chAv [cháv - said as if french]

I do know how to pronounce it but looking at the pronunciation section on the page doesn't give me the least bit of a clue. If I didn't know, that IPA and SAMPA thing wouldn't help in the slightest.


It may be relevant to note that in Spanish the word chaval means youngster. According to the Spanish Academy this is from the "caló" (the Roma spoken by Spanish gypsies) word for boy.

This might reinforce the theory that "chav" comes from Roma.

moved from Etymology

In modern Spanish the word chaval is translated as lad. Chavala is girl or lass. This word is in common usage in Spain [1].
--Williamsayers79 10:32, 22 May 2007 (UTC)

Spanish translation[edit]

i've changed the spanish translation from 'paleto' which means 'country bumpkin' (cfr. french 'plouc') to 'malote' which is the name of a similiarly dressed urban tribe in galiza at least. it may only be local 15:16, 28 November 2005 (UTC)


Is it really accurate, or meaningfull to say that "Others state is that it is one of several abbreviations"...I doubt that anyone with any sort of intelligence really has the naïvety to actually believe that that is the etymologically of the word (along with a myriad of other silly backronyms.) Of course surely there's some teenager somewhere who heard from a friend that this is what chav stands for, and believes it, but it's hardly the kind of thing youl'd stick in a dictionary... 02:18, 15 January 2006 (UTC)

If you are looking for absolute etymologies only, then you are going to miss a lot of the value of the popular words. Many words have diffrent meanings. These sometimes grow up over time as people use the word in different ways, perhaps mistakenly at first. Something similar happens with the belief of where a word comes from. Hey, if the word is used in a TV episode or appears in a book you can quote it as a source. But where did they get it from ? Who can say. One theory is as good as another with these fast spreading popular words.--Richardb 00:45, 27 February 2006 (UTC)
I've heard before that the word chav comes from "council house and violent" etc. It should entered in the article that folk etymological bachronyms of this kind do exist.
What is the benefit of that? Equinox 17:42, 7 September 2010 (UTC)

Is the "definition" right, tight enough ?[edit]

Is it a matter of poor taste, or cheap taste ? populist taste ? Is a chav attempting to be fashionable or well dressed, or are they dressing down. Ive checked the Wikipedia definition at w:chav, and that has more focus on the fashion, bling, etc. If we do change the definition, it needs changing at WikiSaurus:chav too. --Richardb 00:45, 27 February 2006 (UTC)

The definition is simply wrong. A "chav" is someone whose lifestyle, clothing, mannerisms and/or speech are perceived as common or vulgar. I have heard perfectly nice, reasonably well-educated girls of middle-class background from Medway in Kent refer to themselves self-deprecatingly as "chavs" because (without affectation or pretension) they speak and act "common". There may be an association between "chavs" and violence/aggression and youth, but it is not a defining quality of a chav. Nor need a chav be young, whatever the connection between the word chav and the Romany "chavi" may be. Anyone who wears fake clothing of a certain well-known brand could easily be fingered as a "chav" and their clothing as "chavvy", even if they are well above pensionable age.


I would say that chavs have a vulgar culture, they can be nasty, violent or aggressive but to label them as merely "common" underlies a snobbery prevalent in the middle-classes who look down on everyone below them.--Williamsayers79 07:13, 20 August 2008 (UTC)

The best way to refer to the term chav, would be more as a mood, or attitude, as opposed to a young person, for example if you see someone in the street in a tracksuit smoking, they wouldnt be a chav. However if you meet some1 wearing tracksuit, football shirt, or other similar style, with a cap, shouting swearing, starting fights, drinking and vandalising, then they can be refered to as a chav. so rather than refering to them as a group, refer to chav as an attitude

To steal[edit]

I was looking back through newsgroups to find the earliest occurence of chav and found several references where it is used to mean 'steal' see on Jul 12 1996 and Jul 12 1997Pontificake 14:56, 11 March 2006 (UTC)

It is true. The word is becoming increasingly used as a verb - "That guy chavved my food" for example.
In my experience it meant "steal" long before it came to be used as a noun... (i'm from edinburgh btw) -- 00:36, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
I think they might have meant chored - which means to steal and is a lending from Romany language much the same as charver/chav are.--Williamsayers79 08:04, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
From personal experience "chavved" and "chored" were interchangeable and I became aware of them at the same time in the early/mid 1980's in my corner of South-East England at least, an area which also has a high concentration of settled traveller families.
I originally come from Portsmouth, Hampshire, UK. When I was growing up, chav meant the same as "steal". I never heard it used in the more recent usage till at least early 2000's. So, yes, the original author of this section is correct. I'd also point out that it was the late 1970's/early 1980's when I went to school, that I first heard the term (parents were both born elsewhere and didn't speak with Portsmouth accent/dialect.) There are probably quite a lot of Romany influences in Pompey, because we also use a few other words like dinlo/dinny (stupid) and mush (generic term for person) that supposedly come from Romany. It's also been implied that a lot of our dialect words come from the Dockers that migrated to Portsmouth from London in the late 19th/early 20th century. We certainly have an accent that sounds a lot like Cockney mixed with something else. (No, not imported Estuary English, as people in their 90's have the same accent.) Memsom 12:35, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
Alwo worth noting that if you spell "chore" as "chaw", then the difference between "chav" and "chaw" is greatly diminished. It's then down to phonetics and the W versus V pronounciation. Memsom 12:41, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Regarding the earliest occurence of the word chav, I heard a program on radio 3, and there were all sorts of people saying that they'd used it 10 years ago, 15 years ago blah blah blah. In Somerset when I was younger (around 1994-6 i suppose) we used to use the word 'chavver' just to mean 'mate,' as in 'you're a dinlo, chavver,' meaning 'you're stupid, mate.' Regarding the developing usage of the word 'chav' as a verb to mean steal, this seems to be common with words referring to a stereotypical member of a lower class, in particular two derogatory terms for gypsies, 'jippo' and 'pikey,' are now often used as slang for steal or similar, as in 'he jipped off with my bag,' 'they pikied all our beer.'

I grew up in Dartford, Kent in the 70's/early 80's (lots of Gypsy kids in our school) and we used the word chav extensively to mean "borrow without the intention of giving back" e.g. "he chavved half me sweets/fags the chavving b*****d". I remember some people using the word "chored" instead of chavved occasionally, but it didnt really work wiv our saafeast accent. Richtea212 20:17, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Growing up in West Kent in the nineties/noughties, I heard "chav" in this sense as a verb before the current common usage. For the noun, people said pikey/pikie (which is a bit stronger than chav). A friend's father who grew up in Chatham in the sixties said that it was used as a verb to mean steal and the past tense was "chaw". [[ 13:44, 18 February 2013 (UTC)]]

Definition of "Chav"[edit]

Where I live, 'chav' has a very different meaning to the primary definition published here. The primary definition for a chav here is what would be refered to as a 'gangsta' over here. I'm not sure which definition is more widespread, and if we should swap the definitions round.

Chris758 19:33, 11 June 2006 (UTC)

And from where i live, Chav (or charver) is a word used by gypsies for child. As for Gangsta, thats what chavs like to call themselves, in reference to the gangsters of New York as an example because some of the time they are involved with drugs, and violence, and with the well known 'cool' outlook of the mafia, they like to think they are similar ... which they probably are up untill the dress sence and language.

RfV failure for sense 2[edit]

Keep tidy.svg

The following information has failed Wiktionary's verification process.

Failure to be verified may either mean that this information is fabricated, or is merely beyond our resources to confirm. We have archived here the disputed information, the verification discussion, and any documentation gathered so far, pending further evidence.
Do not re-add this information to the article without also submitting proof that it meets Wiktionary's criteria for inclusion.


In the supposedly "friendly" sense of someone who has good taste in clothing and knows how to talk to young people - is this a deliberate NPOV attempt to counter the derogatory definition, or is it actually used in this way (perhaps as a form of reclaiming the word)? — Paul G 09:02, 10 October 2006 (UTC)

I have never come across an non-derogatory or non-pejorative use of the word chav. It is an insult and I'd find it hard to believe (with out any proof) that it is used in a positve way.--Williamsayers79 07:36, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

This definition is nonsense. Chav has been employed as a form of address in a non pejorative way amongst young men in Kent who could themselves be described as 'chavs'. However the word chav refers to youth not someone who can speak to them! User:Apollonius

remove Can we fix this now, no one seems to know where this daft sense came from, probably a chav!--Williamsayers79 09:36, 16 October 2006 (UTC)

Agree that this usage in nonsense. Occasionaly someone who perceives that they are considered 'chav' will claim to be proud of the fact, but not by altering the sense of the word as suggested. Moglex 08:15, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

I have removed the sense from the article to the take page until someone can come up with any real support for it.--Williamsayers79 08:58, 26 October 2006 (UTC)


Discussion moved here --Williamsayers79 08:45, 21 January 2007 (UTC):

ok, what is it about the chav? why do they all look the same, seriously just check out some other stores. theres more to life than jjb sports, maybe its because all your mates pretend to work there and give u five finger discounts. whats up with livin with your mum and sharing a bed with your bro and sis til your 32. the dole is not pocket money! no matter what your parents told you. so get fucked chav. and sort your wheels out, you know that spoiler looks crap! and get yourself and upgrade, fiestas just wont cut it these days.


The Irish Times Article link no longer works. The article "The Chavs are Coming" is now found here:


Chav, if it come from Gypsy, has interestinge sense in English. In Slovakia Gypsies use this word for a boy. Anyhow, in Slovak slang "chavo" is sometimes used for "a cool boy". But boy on caricature can be interprated as the cool boy by some group of peoples. It is never used for formally or dourly dressed one. So, the boy having special way of dressing can be in Slovakia called "chavo" but it is not offensive or ridiculous term. Rather it is positive equivalent for "boy", of course used only by sameone who is "chav" in English sense of this word. But due to some misundrstending the sense of word can be changed.