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Language Information

Romany is the language of the Gypsies. The origin of the Gypsies was long a matter of speculation. The English word "Gypsy" stems from an early belief that they came from Egypt. This has now been disproved.

The question was resolved by the science of linguistics. Detailed study of the Gypsy language has shown that the Gypsies originally came from India. The common features it shares with Sanskrit and later Indian languages can lead to no other conclusion.

The Gypsies are believed to have begun their migration westward about 1000 A.D. Loanwords in their language from Persian, Armenian, and Greek provide some indication of the general course of their travels. Today Gypsies are to be found in many countries of both Eastern and Western Europe as well as in the United States. A rough estimate of their numbers would be in the neighborhood of 5-6 million.

The name Romany is derived from the Gypsy word rom, which means "man." Dialects vary considerably, each strongly influenced by the language of the country in which it is spoken. The English word "pal" is of Gypsy origin, coming from the Romany word phral, which means "brother."

Language Family
Family: Indo-European
Subgroup: Indo-Iranian
Branch: Indic

Copyright © Kenneth Katzner, The Languages of the World, Published by Routledge.

Writing Sample

Writing Sample


What I am going to tell you now has been experienced by many Gypsies. I was only a little girl of seven or eight. We camped with our uncle Pxuroronko in the forest of Smolensk. Towards evening the blue sky gradually assumed a lead color. Soon it grew dark and as a contrast the zigzags of fire cut across the sky close to each other. Fortunately, we children had gathered such a heap of firewood that it would have been sufficient for a whole week— maybe we had a presentiment.

—The Ghosts