Shiv (weapon)

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A shiv confiscated in a South African prison
Shivs hidden in a book, Hong Kong

Shiv, also chiv and shivvie, is a homemade knife-like weapon, especially one fashioned in prison. The word is almost certainly evolved from 17th-century "chive" (knife). The related verb shiv means "to stab someone", a shivver being a criminal who attacks victims with a knife.[1] An improvised prison knife is also often called a shank.


The word is prison slang for an improvised knife. A shiv can be anything from a glass shard with fabric wrapped around one end to form a handle, to a razor blade stuck in the end of a toothbrush.

In the 1950s, British criminal Billy Hill described his use of the shiv:

In the Federal Bureau of Prisons, weapons, sharpened instruments, and knives are considered contraband and their possession is punishable as a greatest severity level prohibited act.[3]


  1. ^ Tom Dalzell (2009), "shiv; chiv; shivvie", The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, p. 869
  2. ^ Campbell, Duncan (2008-07-30). "When crime grabbed the limelight". The Guardian, 30 July 2008. Retrieved on 2012-01-29 from
  3. ^ U.S. Dept of Justice (2011) "Inmate Discipline Program". Retrieved on 2017-05-29 from