News & Blogs A short explanation of gypsy terminology (1 Viewer)

Matt Derrick

Semi-retired traveler
Staff member
Aug 4, 2006
Austin, TX
I came across this post on Tumblr today, and I thought it was pretty interesting and worth sharing here.

I am going to do a break down of the various terminology as it is accepted in most Romani academic circles.

I realize that this can be very confusing, especially to those outside our ethnicity and culture, and even to those who were raised in our culture, but do not have a full grasp of our language.

I must also note that self-identification varies amongst us and many of our own people may not recognize what is considered proper terminology.

“Gypsy” - The pejorative term created by the British in the 1500s. The term was created to identify only those who are Romani, most specifically those who we now call UK Romany & the Romanichal. It was never intended to be used as a descriptor for any other ethnic population. It comes from the Old English term for Egyptian, and notGreek. It is a slur.

Romani - The term that refers to our entire ethnic population, including the Sinti. It refers to the ethnic population that left Northern India & Pakistan shortly after the invasion of the Persian Muslims who have since settled in Trukey, all of Europe, and the Americas. The term is used to refer to our culture & language in relation to the entire ethnic population:
Romani culture, Romani language, Romani people, Romani ethnicity.

Romany - The population of Romani who settled in the British Isles sometime in the late 14th century. They have since become two distinct populations self identifying as either Romany or Romanichal. This spelling is typically used to refer only to the ”native” Romani population of the region. It does not inculde more recent Romani immigrants or refugees from continental Europe. Romany is typically prefixed by British, UK, English, or another identifier of where in the region they have settled & lived.
Ex: Some Romani families have lived in the UK for one hundred years or more and they have even picked up some words from the Rromanes dialect spoken by the UK Romany.

Sinti - The self-identifier of a sub-ethnic population of the Romani people who live in Germany, Austria, regions of Central Europe, and the United States of America. Many Sinti prefer their identifier over Romani, though they do indeed belong to the Romani ethnic population & their language is a dialect of the Romani language.

Rroma - A sub-ethnic group of the Romani population who live throughout Transylvania, Central Europe and Northern Italy.
(This is why referring to our entire ethnic population as the Rroma & Sinti tends to be problematic. It is inclusive of only these two very specific Romani sub ethnic populations, when in fact, we have likely over 80 self-identified distinct groups that are considered part of the Romani ethnicity.)

Rroma - A Romani woman. The adjective that describes a Romani woman or girl.
Ex: I am a Rroma woman, but I belong to the Romani people.

Rromni - A Romani woman who is married. A wife.
Ex: The Rromni took care of her sick husband.

Rrom - A Romani man. The adjective that describes a Romani man or boy.
Ex: The old Rrom told us stories about our history.

Rromanes - The language of the Romani people. Sometimes referred to as “Romani chib”, which means “Romani tongue”. This includes all dialects of the Romani language spoken in all of Europe, Turkey, South Africa, as well as North, Central & South America.

Dom - A sister population of the Romani ethnicity. They are believed to be descendants of similar North Indian & Pakistani ethnic groups. They likely began their diaspora before the people who are today considered the Romani. The Dom live throughout Northern Africa, the Middle East & Central Asia.

Domari - The language of the Dom people.

Lom - Speculatively related to the Romani in the same way as the Domari: a population of mixed Northern Indian ethnic groups who began their diaspora before the population that is considered the Romani. They settled mostly in the Caucasus Mountains, and largely in Armenia.

Lomavren - The language of the Lom people.

The Romani, Dom & Lom are related to some degree, but the exact relation is still contested by some. The Dom & Lom are sometimes lumped under the pejorative exonym, “gypsy”, though this term was never ascribed to them until rather recently.
When referring to this entire diasporic population from the Indian subcontinent, they should always be termed “The Romani, Dom & Lom”. Of course, order can vary, but the proper terms should be utilized instead of “gypsy”.
Single “R” & double “Rr” spellings - Both manner of spellings are correct. Some dialects use a double “Rr” spelling for phonetics purposes, while other use it to distinguish us from Romanians & inhabitants of Rome, Italy.

Non-Romani Ethnic Populations:

There are several ethnic populations that are wrongly lumped under the slur umbrella that is “gypsy”. Many have no relationship to us & should only be discussed in terms of contact. We are entirely separate ethnic populations.
(For those who still have not grasped this concept yet.)

Pavee - Commonly known as Irish Travellers, they are a sub-ethnic group of Irish who have lived a nomadic existence for several centuries. They reside in Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Some self identify as “Irish Gypsies”, though the bastardization of that term from the UK Romany is a rather contentious topic.
Some Pavee have had very close relations with UK Romany, even inter-marrying. However, it is important to note that the Romany & Romani are in no way related to Irish Travellers. We are not only two separate ethnic populations, but we even belong to two separate races. We each have our own lanaguage & culture.

Shelta - The language of the Pavee.

Banjara - An ethnic population living in Northern India. Though we have been genetically linked to the Banjara, the group is not the only Indian ethnicity that comprised of the initial Romani diasporic population. In fact, we have been linked to a wide variety of ethnic populations that live throughout Northern India, Pakistan, and even Eastern Afghanistan. The Banjara are just one of those many ethnicities.
The Banjara are not “gypsies” & they are not Romani.
They are Banjara. They are Indian.

There are many nomadic peoples throughout Europe.
The only ones who are Romani are the Romani.
The only ones who are “gypsy” are the Romani, most specifically, the Romany.

The Yeniche, Quinqui, Scottish Travellers, Norwegian Travellers, any generic nomadic people, nomads of India, Asia, or any other place on Earth are not Romani & they are not “gypsies”. Not even the Lom & Dom are “gypsies”, or Romani, even though they are our sister ethnic populations.

The only people who are Romani are the Romani.

Needed this today, so reblogged for everyone else too

get it right, and maybe avoid being a racist at someone!

Further Resources:

Bringing this back for International Romani Day
We sell all kinds of other stuff in our Etsy store!

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