• noun a disreputable, flashy male, typically one who lives by shady dealing rather than orthodox work. This word had existed in the jargon of race-track habitués and petty criminals since the late 19th century, but came into its own after World War II, when it was adopted by the press and public to designate the touts, black marketeers and ‘wide boys’ who flourished in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Spiv is an alteration of ‘spiff’, an archaic dialect word for a dandy which also gave rise to the adjectives spiffy and ‘spiffing’.