navvy

navvy

[nav-ee]
noun, plural navvies. British Informal.
an unskilled manual laborer.

Origin:
1825–35; short for navigator

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World English Dictionary
navvy (ˈnævɪ)
 
n , pl -vies
informal (Brit) a labourer on a building site, excavations, etc
 
[C19: shortened from navigator, builder of a navigation (sense 4)]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
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Word Origin & History

navvy
1832, "laborer on a canal or railroad," colloquial shortening of navigator (q.v.) in its sense of "one who digs navigation canals."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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