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Distribution of the Romani people in Europe based on self-designation.

The Romani people are also known by a variety of other names, in English as Roma, Gypsies, or Travellers, historically also as "tinkers" from their common occupation as tinsmiths. In Central and Eastern Europe as Tsigani (and variants), in France as gitans besides the dated bohémiens and manouches.

Self-designation also varies: In Central and Eastern Europe, Roma is common. The Romani of England call themselves (in Angloromani) Romanichal, those of Scandinavia (in Scandoromani) Romanisæl. In German-speaking Europe, the self-designation is Sinti, in France Manush, while the groups of Spain, Wales and Finland use Kalo/Kale (from kalo meaning "black"). There are numerous subgroups and clans with their own self-designations, such as the Kalderash, Machvaya, Boyash, Lovari, Modyar, Xoraxai, Lăutari, etc.


Rom, Romani


Romani usage

In the Romani language, rom is a masculine noun, meaning "man, husband", with the plural romá. Romani is the feminine adjective, while romano is the masculine adjective. Some Romanies use Romá as an ethnic name, while others (such as the Sinti, or the Romanichal) do not use this term as a self-ascription for the entire ethnic group.[1]

English usage

In the English language (according to OED), Rom is a noun (with the plural Romá or Roms) and an adjective, while Romani (Romany) is also a noun (with the plural Romanies or Romanis) and an adjective. Both Rom and Romani have been in use in English since the 19th century as an alternative for Gypsy. Romani was initially spelled Rommany, then Romany, while today the Romani spelling is the most popular spelling.

Sometimes, rom and romani are spelled with a double r, i.e., rrom and rromani, particularly in Romania in order to distinguish from the Romanian endonym (români). This is well established in Romani itself, since it represents a phoneme (/ʀ/ also written as ř and rh) which in some Romani dialects has remained different from the one written with a single r.[2]

Although Romá is used as a designation for the branch of the Romani people with historic concentrations in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, it is increasingly encountered during recent decades[3][4] as a generic term for the Romani people as a whole.[5]

Because all Romanies use the word Romani as an adjective, the term began to be used as a noun for the entire ethnic group.[6]

Today, the term Romani is used by most organizations—including the United Nations, the Council of Europe, and the US Library of Congress.[2] However, some organizations use the term Romá to refer to Romani people around the world.[1][7]


The classical assumption is that the demonyms of the Romani people, Lom and Dom share the same origin,[8][9] reflecting Sanskrit ḍoma "a man of low caste, living by singing and music"[10], although other theories do exist.[11] The ultimate origin of the Sanskrit term (from Munda or Dravidian) is uncertain.[12]


The English term Gypsy (or Gipsy) originates from the Greek word Αιγύπτιοι (Aigyptioi, whence Modern Greek γύφτοι gifti), in the erroneous belief that the Romanies originated in Egypt, and were exiled as punishment for allegedly harboring the infant Jesus.[13] This exonym is sometimes written with capital letter, to show that it is designates an ethnic group.[14]

As described in Victor Hugo's novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the medieval French referred to the Romanies as egyptiens. The term has come to bear pejorative connotations (as is the term "gyp" meaning "to cheat", a reference to the suspicion the Romanies engendered). However, use of the word "Gypsy" in English has now become so pervasive that many Romani organizations use it in their own organizational names.

In North America, the word "Gypsy" is commonly used as a reference to lifestyle or fashion, and not to the Romani ethnicity. The Spanish term gitano and the French term gitan may have the same origin.[15]

Tsigani, cigány

In much of continental Europe, Romanies are known by names cognate to the Greek τσιγγάνοι tsigani , including Hungarian: cigány [ˈtsiɡaːɲ]), Romanian: Ţigani, German: Zigeuner, Italian: Zingari, Turkish: Çingene, Latvian: Čigāni, Norwegian: Sigøynere, Polish: Cyganie, Russian: Цыганы, Ukrainian: Цигани, Czech: Cigáni, etc.

The name originates with Byzantine Greek ατσίγγανοι (atsinganoi, Latin adsincani) or αθίγγανοι (athinganoi, literally "the intangibles"), a term applied to the sect of the Melchisedechians.[16][17][18]

The Adsincani appear in an 11th-century text preserved in Mt Athos, The Life of Saint George the Athonite (written in the Georgian language), as "a Samaritan people, descendants of Simon the Magician, named Adsincani, who were renowned sorcerers and villains". In the text, emperor Constantine Monomachos employs the Adsincani to exterminate wild animals, who were destroying the game in the imperial park of Philopation.[19]


Because many Romanies living in France had come via Bohemia, they were also referred to as Bohémiens.[20] This would later be adapted to describe the impoverished artistic lifestyle of Bohemianism.

See also


  1. ^ a b We Are the Romani People, Pg XIX,,M1, retrieved 2008-07-31 
  2. ^ a b We Are the Romani People, Pg XXI,,M1, retrieved 2008-07-31 
  3. ^ p. 52 in Elena Marushiakova and Vesselin Popov's "Historical and ethnographic background; Gypsies, Roma, Sinti" in Will Guy [ed.] Between Past and Future: The Roma of Central and Eastern Europe [with a Foreword by Dr. Ian Hancock], 2001, UK: University of Hertfordshire Press
  4. ^ p. 13 in Illona Klimova-Alexander's The Romani Voice in World Politics: The United Nations and Non-State Actors (2005, Burlington, VT.: Ashgate
  5. ^ Rothéa, Xavier. "Les Roms, une nation sans territoire?" (in French). Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  6. ^ We Are the Romani People, Pg XX,,M1, retrieved 2008-07-31 
  7. ^ Roma diplomacy, Pg 16,,M1, retrieved 2008-07-31 
  8. ^ The Institute for Middle East Understanding
  9. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary - Douglas Harper
  10. ^ McArthur, T. (ed.) The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992) Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-214183-X
  11. ^ Monier-Williams, Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1899)
  12. ^ Abhijit Ghosh, Non-Aryan linguistic elements in the Atharvaveda: a study of some words of Austric origin, Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 2000, p. 10, 76.
  13. ^ Fraser 1992.
  14. ^ Hancock, Ian (1995). A Handbook of Vlax Romani. Slavica Publishers. p. 17. 
  15. ^ "gitan" (in French). Dictionnaire de l'Académie française. Retrieved 2007-08-26. "Nom donné aux bohémiens d'Espagne ; par ext., synonyme de Bohémien, Tzigane. Adjt. Une robe gitane." 
  16. ^ White, Karin (1999). "Metal-workers, agriculturists, acrobats, military-people and fortune-tellers: Roma (Gypsies) in and around the Byzantine empire". Golden Horn 7 (2). Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  17. ^ Bates, Karina. "A Brief History of the Rom". Retrieved 2010-01-09. 
  18. ^ "Book Reviews" (PDF). Population Studies 48 (2): 365–372. July 1994. doi:10.1080/0032472031000147856. 
  19. ^ P. Peeters, 'Histoire monastiques géorgiennes', Analecta Bollandiana, 36-37, 1917-19.
  20. ^ Achim, Viorel (2004). The Roma in Romanian History. Budapest: Central European University Press. pp. 11. ISBN 9789639241848. OCLC 54529869. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Zigeuner m.

  1. gypsy




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