navvy (n.) "laborer on a canal or railroad," 1832, colloquial shortening of NAVIGATOR (Cf. navigator) (q.v.) in its sense of "one who digs navigation canals."

Etymology dictionary. 2014.

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  • Navvy — Nav vy, n.; pl. {Navies}. [Abbreviated fr. navigator.] Originally, a laborer on canals for internal navigation; hence, a laborer on other public works, as in building railroads, embankments, etc. [Eng.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • navvy — ► NOUN (pl. navvies) Brit. dated ▪ a labourer employed in the excavation and construction of a road or railway. ORIGIN abbreviation of NAVIGATOR(Cf. ↑navigator) in the former sense «builder of a navigation» (a dialect word for a canal) …   English terms dictionary

  • navvy — [nav′ē] n. pl. navvies [abbrev. of NAVIGATOR] Brit. an unskilled laborer, as on canals, roads, etc …   English World dictionary

  • Navvy — A navvy depicted in Ford Madox Brown s painting Work Navvy is a shorter form of navigator (UK) or navigational engineer (USA) and is particularly applied to describe the manual labourers working on major civil engineering projects. The term was… …   Wikipedia

  • navvy — [[t]næ̱vi[/t]] navvies N COUNT A navvy is a person who is employed to do hard physical work, for example building roads or canals. [BRIT, OLD FASHIONED] ...a blackened young navvy, swinging a pickaxe in the sweating tunnel …   English dictionary

  • navvy — UK [ˈnævɪ] / US noun [countable] Word forms navvy : singular navvy plural navvies British old fashioned someone whose job is to do hard physical work, for example build roads or dig railways …   English dictionary

  • navvy — n British a manual labourer, unskilled construc tion worker or road digger. Navvy is a shortening of navigator , which was a nickname given to open air construc tion workers engaged in building roads, canals and railways in the late 18th and… …   Contemporary slang

  • navvy — noun (plural navvies) Brit. dated a labourer employed in the excavation and construction of a road, railway, or canal. Word History Navvy is a shortening of navigator, which in the 18th century came to denote, as well as a sailor skilled in… …   English new terms dictionary

  • navvy — n. & v. Brit. n. (pl. ies) a labourer employed in building or excavating roads, canals, etc. v.intr. ( ies, ied) work as a navvy. Etymology: abbr. of NAVIGATOR …   Useful english dictionary

  • navvy — noun (plural navvies) Etymology: by shortening & alteration from navigator construction worker on a canal Date: circa 1834 chiefly British an unskilled laborer …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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