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From Middle English Gipcyan, Gypcyan (Gyptian), from Old French gyptien. Short for Egyptian, from Latin aegyptius, because when Roma first appeared in England in the sixteenth century they were wrongly believed to have come from Egypt. The Albanian term Evgit, Greek γύφτος (gýftos), Italian zazza' and Spanish gitano have the same origin.

The other major categories of words for the Roma are cognates of Rom (words related to the Romani people's autonyms) and cognates of tzigane (words derived from Greek); see those entries for more information.



Gypsy (plural Gypsies)

  1. (sometimes offensive) A member of the Romani people, or one of the sub-groups (Roma, Sinti, Romanichal, etc).
  2. A member of other nomadic peoples, not only of the Romani people; a traveller. Alternative spelling of gypsy

Usage notesEdit

An exonym (external name) based on the mistaken belief that the Romani people came from Egypt, the term Gypsy is loaded with negative connotations.[1][2] Some dictionaries therefore either recommend avoiding the term entirely, or give it a negative or warning label.[3][4][5][6][7][8] Careful speakers and most international organizations typically use Romani, Roma (Rroma), or Rom (Rrom) as designations for the people, although narrowly speaking, the last two designate a subgroup. However, Gypsy is more common in informal speech than Romani, and is used by some British laws and court decisions,[9] because its offensiveness is not always understood by non-Romani, whose use of it is often not intended to cause offense. Further, some Romani organizations use "Gypsy" as a self-designation.


Derived termsEdit


Proper nounEdit


  1. (rare, sometimes offensive) The language Romani.
  2. A female given name.
    • 1894, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Gypsy Breynton, page 130:
      "Why, good afternoon, Miss Gypsy," said Sir Simms; "I'm surprised to see you such a warm day — very much surprised. But you always were a remarkable young lady ..."

Usage notesEdit

See the notes about the noun, above.



Gypsy (not comparable)

  1. (sometimes offensive) Of or belonging to the Romani people or one of it sub-groups (Roma, Sinti, Romanichel, etc).

Usage notesEdit

See the notes about the noun, above.


See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ 1994, Jean-Pierre Liégeois, Roma, Gypsies, Travellers
  2. ^ 1999, Arthur Kean Spears, Race and ideology: language, symbolism, and popular culture
  3. ^ Tom Dalzell, editor (2007) The new Partridge dictionary of slang and unconventional English, reprint edition, London [u.a.]: Routledge, →ISBN, page 943
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster's pocket guide to English usage, Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1998, →ISBN, page 178
  5. ^ Bryan A. Garner (2009) Garner's modern American usage, 3rd edition edition, New York: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 405
  6. ^ [by] H.E. Wedeck with the assistance of Wade Baskin (1973) Dictionary of gypsy life and lore, New York: Philosophical Library, →ISBN
  7. ^ A dictionary of modern legal usage, 3rd edition edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, →ISBN, page 400
  8. ^ Guido Bolaffi, editor (2002) Dictionary of race, ethnicity and culture, 1. publ., [Nachdr.]. edition, London: Sage, →ISBN, page 291
  9. ^ For example, the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960 and the 1989 decision in the case of the Commission for Racial Equality v Dutton.