What does Chav mean?
The word Chav, also called charver or scally has a variety of meanings and origins, but most commonly refers to a working-class young person who is considered to be rowdy or anti-social.
The term is often used in a derogatory way, and some suggest that it has classist and racist undertones.
“Chavs” are stereotypically described as talking Jamaican patois and act in a violent and intolerable behavior.
There is no one definitive “Chav” aesthetic, but common features include tracksuits, gold jewelry, fake tan, hoop earrings, and heavy makeup.
“Chavs” are also often associated with alcohol, Burberry and cigarettes.
Female “Chavs” are called “Chavettes”.
What's the origin of Chav?
The origins of the word “Chav” are unclear, but it is thought to be derived from the Romani word for child, or from a region in England called Chatham.
The spread of the term has been attributed to both working-class people and middle-class people using it to distance themselves from those perceived as lower class.
“Chav” started to become popular in the 1990s, when hip hop culture began taking roots in the United Kingdom.
White working-class people, taking on the trend of blinging, and often adopting the lingo of Jamaican immigrants to the country, were the pioneers who created the “Chav” subculture, which was already established by the early 2000’s.
The first Urban Dictionary entry to “Chav” was uploaded to the site in 2003, with several definitions to follow.
Spread & Usage
How did Chav spread?
Over time, the meaning of “Chav” has evolved to include other connotations, such as being uneducated, rowdy or aggressive.
It’s also often used as a catch-all term for people who are perceived to be from a certain background or lifestyle – one that is often associated with crime and poverty.
One common stereotype of “Chavs” is that they are obsessed with designer labels, especially Burberry and expensive cars, as well as jewelry.
This is likely due to the fact that many people from working-class backgrounds aspire to own things that they can’t necessarily afford.
Another stereotype is that “Chavs” have a very distinct way of speaking.
This is usually characterised by an accent that is considered to be lower-class or working-class, as well as certain colloquialisms and slang words, adopted from Jamaican Patois, with exclamations like Booyakasha being a prime example.
Finally, “Chavs” are often said to have a particular style or aesthetic.
This can include wearing lots of fake jewelry and designer labels, as well as heavy makeup.
It’s also not uncommon for “Chavs” to consume large amounts of alcohol – sometimes to excess.
Of course, not all people who fit the stereotype of a “Chav” are actually bad people.
The vast majority are just people who are trying to make the best of their circumstances.
Unfortunately, the negative connotations surrounding the term have led to many people using it as an insult – regardless of whether or not that was their intention.
However, all these negative connotations have led to the slow disappearance of the “Chav” subculture in the 2010s, being slowly replaced by the more stylish, and grim aesthetic, displayed by drill rappers.
- BBC – Why is ‘chav’ still controversial?
- University of Birmingham – Everything you ever wanted to know about the word ‘chav’