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The English Usage of Terms Referring to Gypsies

Rom, Roma, Romani

These three terms can be used as adjectives and singular or plural nouns as an alternative for the term Gypsy.

Although the term Roma once specifically denoted the Romani people historically concentrated in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, today all three are considered synonyms.

In addition, the term Romani is used by a lot of organizations, including the United Nations and the Council of Europe.


This term comes from the Greek word “Egyptian” and stems from the belief that Gypsies originally came from Egypt. It can be found in international research programmes and documents and policies related to their community.

Even the writer Victor Hugo in his novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” calls the Romanies Egyptians. Although this term often has negative connotations, today its use has become so widespread that even a lot of Romanies themselves use it in the names of their own organizations.

The term Gypsy shares its origin with the Spanish/Italian term Gitano and the French one Gitan all referring to their Egyptian origin.



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