; ) are an ethnic group of Europe
to medieval India
are widely dispersed with their
largest concentrated populations in Europe,
especially the Roma of
Central and Eastern
Europe and Anatolia, followed by
the Iberian Kale in Southwestern
Europe and Southern France,
with more recent diaspora populations in the Americas and, to a lesser extent, in other parts of
Their Romani language
into several dialects, which add up to an estimated number of
speakers larger than two million. The total number of Romani people
is at least twice as large (several times as large according to
high estimates), and many Romani are native speakers of the
language current in their country of residence, or of mixed languages
combining the two.
Distribution of the Romanies in Europe
based on self-designation.
In the Romani language
is a masculine noun, meaning "man, husband", with the plural
is the feminine adjective, while
is the masculine adjective. Some Romanies use
as an ethnic name, while others (such as the Sinti
, or the Romanichal
not use this term as a self-ascription for the entire ethnic group.
are spelled with a
, i.e., rrom
this case rr
is used to represent the phoneme /ʀ/ (also
written as ř
), which in some Romani
dialects has remained different from the one written with a single
. The rr spelling is common
particularly in Romania, in order to
distinguish from the endonym for Romanians (sg. român, pl.
In the English language
to OED), Rom
is a noun (with the plural Roma
) and an adjective, while Romani
) is also a noun (with the plural Romanies
) and an adjective. Both Rom
have been in use in English since the 19th century
as an alternative for Gypsy
was initially spelled Rommany
, then Romany
today the Romani
spelling is the most popular spelling.
Occasionally, the double r
spelling (e.g., Rroma
) mentioned above is also encountered in English
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 as a generic term for the Romani people as a whole.
Because all Romanies use the word Romani
as an adjective,
the term began to be used as a noun for the entire ethnic group.
Today, the term Romani
is used by most
organizations—including the United
, the Council of
, and the US Library of Congress.
The standard assumption is that the demonyms of the Romani people,
share the same origin.
English term Gypsy (or
Gipsy) originates from the Greek word (Aigyptoi,
whence modern Greek gifti), in the erroneous belief that
the Romanies originated in Egypt, and were
exiled as punishment for allegedly harboring the infant Jesus.
is sometimes written with capital letter, to
show that it designates an ethnic
As described in Victor Hugo
The Hunchback of Notre
, the medieval French referred to the Romanies as
. The term has come to bear pejorative
connotations. The word "Gypsy" in English
has become so pervasive that many
Romani organizations use it in their own organizational
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
have the same origin.
Population and subgroups
Many Romanies for a variety of reasons choose not to register their
ethnic identity in official censuses. There are an estimated
four million Romani people in Europe and Asia Minor (as of 2002), although some high estimates by
Romani organizations give numbers as high as 14
million.Significant Romani populations are found in
the Balkan peninsula, in some
Central European states, in Spain, France, Russia, and
Several more million Romanies may live out
of Europe, in particular in the Middle
and in the Americas.
The Romani people recognize divisions among themselves based in
part on territorial, cultural and dialectal
differences and self-designation. The main branches are:
Romanies there are further internal differentiations, like
Bashaldé; Churari; Luri; Ungaritza; Lovari (Lovara) from Hungary; Machvaya (Machavaya,
Machwaya, or Macwaia) from Serbia; Romungro (Modyar or Modgar) from Hungary and neighbouring carpathian countries; Erlides (also Yerlii or
Arli); Xoraxai (Horahane) from Greece/Turkey; Boyash (Lingurari, Ludar,
Ludari, Rudari, or Zlătari) from Romanian/Moldovan words for various crafts: (Lingurari - spoon
makers, Rudari - wood crafters; Zlătari - goldsmiths); Ursari from Romanian/Moldovan bear-trainer; Argintari from
silversmiths; Aurari from goldsmiths; Florari from florists; and Lăutari
crystallized in Eastern Europe and
Central Italy, emigrated
also (mostly from the 19th century onwards), in the rest of Europe,
but also on the other continents;
- Iberian Kale, mostly in Spain (see
Romani people in Spain), but
also in Portugal, Southern France and Latin America;
- Finnish Kale, in
also in Sweden;
Kale, in Wales;
- Romanichal, in the
Kingdom, emigrated also to the United States and Australia;
- Sinti, in German-speaking areas of
Central Europe and some neighboring
- Manush, in
French-speaking areas of Central Europe;
- Romanisæl, in Sweden and Norway.
Linguistic and genetic evidence indicates
the Romanies originated from the Indian subcontinent, emigrating from
India towards the northwest no earlier than the 11th
century. The Romani are generally believed to have
originated in central India, possibly in the modern Indian state of
Rajasthan, migrating to northwest India (the Punjab region) around 250 B.C.
centuries spent here, there may have been close interaction with
such established groups as the Rajputs
. Their subsequent westward migration,
possibly in waves, is believed to have occurred between 500 A.D.
and 1000 A.D. Contemporary populations sometimes suggested as
sharing a close relationship to the Romani are the Dom people
and the Banjara
The emigration from India likely took place in the context of the
raids by Mahmud of Ghazni
soldiers were defeated, they were moved west with their families
into the Byzantine Empire
. The 11th
century terminus post quem
is due to the Romani language
showing unambiguous features of the Modern Indo-Aryan
languages, precluding an
emigration during the Middle Indic
Genetic evidence supports the medieval migration from India. The
Romanies have been described as "a conglomerate of genetically
isolated founder populations", while a number of common Mendelian
Romanies from all over Europe indicates "a common origin and
founder effect". See also this table:A study from 2001 by Gresham
et al. suggests "a limited number of related founders, compatible
with a small group of migrants splitting from a distinct caste or
tribal group". The same study found that "a single lineage ...
found across Romani populations, accounts for almost one-third of
Romani males." See also the Cohen
.A 2004 study by Morar et al. concluded that the
Romani population "was founded approximately 32–40 generations ago,
with secondary and tertiary founder events occurring approximately
16–25 generations ago".
Possible connection with the Jat people
While the South Asian origin of the Romani people has been long
considered a certitude, the exact South Asian group from whom the
Romanies have descended has been a matter of debate. The recent
discovery of the "Jat mutation" that causes a type of glaucoma
in Romani populations suggests that the
Romani people are the descendants of the Jat
found in Northern India and Pakistan.
This contradicted an earlier study that compared the most common
haplotypes found in Romani groups with those found in Jatt Sikhs
and Jats from Haryana and found no matches. The haplogroup H
, which is the most common
haplogroup in Romanis is far more prevalent in central India and
south India than it is in northern India, where haplogroup R1a
lineages makes up at
least half of male ancestries, and haplogroup H
Appearance in Europe
CE a Franciscan monk
named Symon Semeonis described people
resembling these "atsinganoi" living in Crete and in 1350
CE Ludolphus of Sudheim
mentioned a similar people with a unique language whom he called
Mandapolos, a word which some theorize was possibly
derived from the Greek word mantes (meaning prophet or fortune
1360, an independent Romani fiefdom (called
the Feudum Acinganorum)
was established in Corfu and became
"a settled community and an important and established part of the
14th century, the Romanies had reached the Balkans; by 1424 CE, Germany; and by the 16th century, Scotland and Sweden.
Romanies migrated from Persia
through North Africa, reaching the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century. The two currents met
began immigrating to the United States in colonial times, with small groups in Virginia and French
Larger-scale immigration began in the 1860s,
with groups of Romnichal from Britain. The largest number
immigrated in the early 1900s, mainly from the Vlax group of
Kalderash. Many Romanies also settled in South America
When the Romani people arrived in Europe, curiosity was soon
followed by hostility and xenophobia
Romanies were enslaved for five centuries in Wallachia
Elsewhere in Europe, they were subject to ethnic cleansing
, abduction of their
children, and forced labor
England, there were hangings and expulsions of the Romani;
in France, branding
and the shaving of heads; in Moravia and
Bohemia severing of ears of women.
result, large groups of the Romani travelled back East, towards
Poland, which was
more tolerant, and Russia, where the
Romani were also treated less heavy-handedly, as long as they paid
the annual taxes.
Sinti and Roma about to be deported in
Germany, May 22, 1940
World War II
During World War II
, the Nazis
embarked on systematic attempt at genocide
of the Romanies, known as the Porajmos
. They were marked for extermination
and sentenced to forced labor and imprisonment in concentration camps
. They were often
killed on sight, especially by the Einsatzgruppen (essentially mobile killing units) on the Eastern
The total number of victims has been variously
estimated at between 220,000 to 1,500,000; even the lowest number
would count as one of the largest mass murders in history.
Eastern Europe, Romanies
experienced assimilation schemes and restrictions of cultural
freedom. The Romani language and Romani music were banned from public
performance in Bulgaria. In Czechoslovakia, they were labeled a "socially degraded stratum,"
and Romani women were sterilized as part of a state policy to
reduce their population.
This policy was implemented with
large financial incentives, threats of denying future welfare
payments, with misinformation, or after administering drugs
(Silverman 1995; Helsinki Watch
official inquiry from the Czech Republic, resulting in a report
(December 2005), concluded that the Communist authorities had
practiced an assimilation policy towards Roma, which "included
efforts by social services to control the birth rate in the Romani
community" and that "the problem of sexual sterilization carried
out in the Czech Republic, either with improper motivation or
illegally, exists" with new revealed cases up until 2004, in both
Society and culture
A Gipsy Family - Facsimile of a woodcut in the "Cosmographie
Universelle" of Munster: in folio, Basle, 1552.
The traditional Romanies place a high value on the extended family
is essential in unmarried women. Both
men and women often marry young; there has been controversy in
several countries over the Romani practice of child marriage
. Romani law establishes that
the man's family must pay a bride price
to the bride's parents, but only traditional families still follow
Once married, the woman joins the husband's family, where her main
job is to tend to her husband's and her children's needs, as well
as to take care of her in-laws. The power structure in the
traditional Romani household has at its top the oldest man or
grandfather, and men in general have more authority than women.
Women gain respect and authority as they get older. Young wives
begin gaining authority once they have children.
Romani social behavior
regulated by Hindu purity laws ("marime" or "marhime"), still
respected by most Roma (and by most older generations of Sinti).
This regulation affects many aspects of life, and is applied to
actions, people and things: parts of the
are considered impure: the genital organs
(because they produce emissions),
as well as the rest of the lower body. Fingernails and toenails
must be filed with an emery board, as cutting them with a clipper
is a taboo
. Clothes for the lower body, as
well as the clothes of menstruating
women, are washed separately. Items used for eating are also washed
in a different place. Childbirth is considered impure, and must
occur outside the dwelling place. The mother is considered impure
for forty days after giving birth. Death is considered impure, and
affects the whole family of the dead, who remain impure for a
period of time. In contrast to the practice of cremating
the dead, Romani dead must be buried.
Cremation and burial are both known from the time of the Rigveda
, and both are widely practiced in Hinduism
today (although the tendency for higher
caste groups is to burn, while lower caste groups in South India
tend to bury their dead). Some animals are also considered impure,
for instance cats because they lick themselves.
Migrant Romani populations have adopted the dominant religion of
their country of residence, while often preserving aspects of older
belief systems and forms of worship. Most Eastern European Romanies
are Roman Catholic
or Orthodox Christian
. Those in western Europe and the United States
are mostly Roman Catholic
. In Turkey, Egypt, and the Balkans,
the Romanies are split into Christian and Muslim populations.
music plays an important role in Eastern European countries such as
Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Hungary, and Romania, and the style and
performance practices of Romani musicians have influenced European
composers such as Franz Liszt and
most internationally prominent contemporary performers in the
tradition are Taraful Haiducilor
. Bulgaria's popular
"wedding music", too, is almost exclusively performed by Romani
musicians such as Ivo Papasov
virtuoso clarinetist closely associated with this genre and
Bulgarian pop-folk singer Azis
. Many famous
, such as the
Hungarian pianist Georges Cziffra
, are Roma, as are many
prominent performers of manele
. Zdob şi Zdub, one of the most prominent
rock bands in Moldova, although not Romanies themselves, draw heavily on
Romani music, as do Spitalul de Urgenţă in
Romania, Goran Bregović in
Serbia, Darko Rundek in Croatia,
Beirut and Gogol Bordello in the United
Another tradition of Romani music is the genre of the Gypsy
, with such notable
practitioners as Boban Marković
of Serbia, and the brass lăutari
groups Fanfare Ciocărlia
and Fanfare din Cozmesti
The distinctive sound of Romani music has also strongly influenced
(especially cante jondo
) in Europe. European-style
("jazz Manouche" or "Sinti
jazz") is still widely practiced among the original creators (the
Romanie People); one who acknowledged this artistic debt was
guitarist Django Reinhardt
Contemporary artists in this tradition known internationally
include Stochelo Rosenberg
, Jimmy Rosenberg
, and Tchavolo Schmitt
The Romanies of Turkey have achieved musical acclaim from national
and local audiences. Local performers usually perform for special
holidays. Their music is usually performed on instruments such as
. A number of nationwide best seller
performers are said to be of Romani origin.
Most Romanies speak one of several dialects of Romani
, an Indo-Aryan
language. They also will
often speak the languages of the countries they live in. Typically,
they also incorporate loanwords
into Romani from the languages of
those countries, especially words for terms that the Romani
language does not have. Most of the Ciganos
of Spain, the Romnichal
of the UK, and Scandinavian Travellers
have lost their knowledge of pure Romani, and respectively speak
the mixed languages Caló
, and Scandoromani
There are independent groups currently working toward standardizing the language
including groups in Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, the USA, and
Sweden. Romani is not currently spoken in India.
The first and one of the most enduring persecutions against the
Romani people was the enslaving of the Romanies who arrived on the
territory of the historical Romanian states of Wallachia
which lasted from the 14th century until the second half of the
19th century. Legislation decreed that all the Romanies living in
these states, as well as any others who would immigrate there, were
The arrival of some branches of the Romani people in Western Europe
in the 15th century was
precipitated by the Ottoman
of the Balkans
. Although the Romanies
themselves were refugees
from the conflicts
in southeastern Europe, they were mistaken by the local population
in the West, because of their foreign appearance, as part of the
at Landau and Freiburg in 1496-1498 declared
the Romanies as spies of the Turks). In Western Europe, this
resulted in a violent history of persecution and attempts of ethnic
cleansing until the modern era. As time passed, other accusations
were added against local Romanies (accusations specific to this
area, against non-assimilated minorities), like that of bringing
the plague, usually sharing their burden together with the local
One example of official persecution of the Romani is exemplified by
the The Great
(Gitanos) in 1749. The Spanish monarchy a country-wide
raid that led to separation of families and placement of all
able-bodied men into forced labor camps.
the 19th century, Romani immigration was forbidden on a racial
basis in areas outside Europe, mostly in the English speaking world
(in 1885 the United States outlawed the entry of the Roma) and also
in some South American countries (in 1880 Argentina adopted a similar policy).
The persecution of the Romanies reached a peak during World War II
in the Porajmos
, the genocide perpetrated by the
during the Holocaust
. In 1935, the Nuremberg laws
stripped the Romani people
living in Nazi Germany
citizenship, after which they were subjected to violence,
imprisonment in concentration
and later genocide in extermination camps
. The policy was
extended in areas occupied by the Nazis during the war, and it was
also applied by their allies, notably the Independent
State of Croatia, Romania and Hungary.
Because no accurate pre-war census figures exist for the Roma, it
is impossible to accurately assess the actual number of victims.
Ian Hancock, director of the Program of Romani
Studies at The University of Texas at
Austin, proposes a figure of up to a million and a half,
while an estimate of between 220,000 and 500,000 was made by the
late Sybil Milton, formerly senior historian of the U.S.
Holocaust Memorial Museum. In Central Europe, the extermination in
the Protectorate of
Bohemia and Moravia
was so thorough that the Bohemian Romani
In the Habsburg Monarchy
a series of decrees tried to force the Romanies to sedentarize
, removed rights to horse and
wagon ownership (1754), renamed them as "New Citizens" and forced
Romani boys into military service if they had no trade (1761),
forced them to register with the local authorities (1767), and
prohibited marriage between Romanies (1773). Her successor Josef II
wearing of traditional Romani clothing and the use of the Romani
language, punishable by flogging.
Spain, attempts to assimilate the Gitanos were under way
as early as 1619, when Gitanos were forcibly sedentarized, the use
of the Romani language was prohibited, Gitano men and women were
sent to separate workhouses and their children sent to
Similar prohibitions took place in later in 1783
under King Charles III
prohibited the nomadic lifestyle, the use of the Calo language
, Romani clothing,
their trade in horses and other itinerant trades. Ultimately these
measures failed, as the rest of the population rejected the
integration of the Gitanos.
examples of forced assimilation include Norway, where a law
was passed in 1896 permitting the state to remove children from
their parents and place them in state institutions.
resulted in some 1,500 Romani children being taken from their
parents in the 20th century.
Amnesty International reports
continued instances of Antizigan discrimination during the 2000s,
particularly in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Kosovo.
Romani are often confined to low-class ghettos
, are subject to discrimination in jobs and
schools, and are often subject to police brutality.
In 2008, the Italian government declared that Italy's Romani
population represented a national security risk and that swift
action was required to address the emergenza nomadi
) Specifically officials in the Italian
government accused the Romanies of being responsible for rising
crime rates in urban areas. Mario Marazziti, spokesperson of the
Community of Sant'Egidio human rights organization said "There is
no national emergency ... What is an emergency is that in the 21st
century the life expectancy of a gypsy living in Italy is under 60
years of age."
Many fictional depictions of the Romani in literature and art
present Romanticized narratives of their supposed mystical powers
of fortune telling
, and their
supposed irascible or passionate temper paired with an indomitable
love of freedom and a habit of criminality.Particularly notable are
classics like Carmen
by Prosper Mérimée
and adapted by
, Victor Hugo
's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
and Miguel de Cervantes
.The Romani were also
heavily romanticized in the Soviet Union, a classic example being the 1975 Tabor ukhodit v Nebo.
realistic depiction of contemporary Romani in the Balkans
Romani lay actors speaking in their native dialects, although still
playing with established clichés of a Romani penchant for both
magic and crime, was presented by Emir
in his Time of the
(1988) and Black Cat, White Cat
In contemporary literature
The Romani ethnicity is often used for characters in contemporary
fantasy literature. In such literature, the Romani are often
portrayed as possessing archaic occult knowledge passed down
through the ages. This frequent use of the ethnicity has given rise
to Gypsy archetypes in popular contemporary literature. One example
of such a use is the character Jilly Coppercorn in the seminal
novel Dreams Under
by Charles de Lint
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