Spiv is a British slang word for a particular type of minor criminal. The term became popular in Britain during the Second World War, and it describes someone who sells illegal goods - usually, in those days, rationed ones.
A typical spiv was charming, and definitely a smart dresser. A spiv could get you anything, even nylon stockings, so you could stop drawing lines up the backs of your legs and pretending they were stocking-seams.
Someone a bit like this:
There have always been spiv-type criminals about, of course, but the term had fallen into disuse until just the last week, when the clever people in Brussels, trying to find a way to persuade people they've got more money than they really do, have come up with an idea called a Special Purpose Investment Vehicle.
Honestly, you couldn't make it up. No, really, you couldn't: if I put that in a novel everyone would mutter about its being contrived and unconvincing.
Still, it's great to see the word spiv getting a new lease of life.
Do enjoy it.
Word To Use Today: spiv. This word probably started off as racecourse slang. It might come from a dialect word, spiving, which means smart.
Other possibilities are that it comes from the Romany word spiv which means sparrow, or that it might be a back-slang form of VIPs, or a police acronym for Suspected Person and Itinerant Vagrant.
There was a character called Henry 'Spiv' Bagster in early 1900s London who was a small-time crook, and he might be the origin of the word, too.