Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Gypsies, the English name of a nomad people of undoubted Indian origin, who, about A.D. 1000, began to move in probably several waves of migration from the Indus valley westwards through Afghanistan, Persia, Asia Minor, and Syria to Europe, where they first made their appearance in the 14th century. The course of their wanderings can be followed through these regions, where they are still represented by the Luri, Kauli (i.e. Kabuli), and Karachi (i.e. "Blacks") of Persia; the Xebeques of Anatolia; the Kurpadh of North Syria; the Nowars of South Syria, and the Chinghiane' of Turkey and the Levant. This last, identified by some with the Chinganes of the Lower Indus, is the most general European name, occurring in many countries under diverse modified forms; all, however, referable to the Sekane, which their chief, calling himself "Duke of Little Egypt," declared to be the name of his followers when summoned before the authorities of the Hanseatic Towns in 1417. Hence the German Zigeuner, the Italian Zingari, the Spanish Zincali, and perhaps also the Acingani of the Byzantine writers, though these are heard of before the assumed date of the first migrations from India. The other European names are due to popular views regarding the origin or practices of these nomads. Such are the Scandinavian Tatars, the Dutch Heidenen ("Heathens"), the French Bohemians, those who first reached Paris in August, 1427, having probably come overland from Bohemia; lastly the Spanish Gitanos, and the English Gypsies (Gipsies), that is Egyptians, as if the first arrivals in Spain and the British Isles had been via the Mediterranean from Egypt.

But the proper tribal name always has been Rom (man, husband), which has been traced to the wandering low-caste Doms (d and r interchangeable) of North India. [Doms.] It is noteworthy that the feminine forms of these words (Romni, Domni) correspond, and are Sanskritic, as in raja, rani; but all the Gypsies cannot be Doms, for many - perhaps the majority - seem to have been Jats of Sindh, whence their alternative name Sinti, that is, people from the Sindhu (Indus) river. The Luri Gypsies of Persia appear to be certainly Jats, and it was about the time of the overthrow of the Indus Jats by Mahmud of the Ghaznevi dynasty (1025) that probably took place the first great dispersion westwards. The two events, conquest and dispersion, seem related as cause and effect. It is also to be noticed that the Romni (Romani) language, though degraded and affected by elements from the speech current in all the lands traversed by them, is distinctly a Gaurian or Neo-Sanskritic dialect intermediate between the Panjabi and the Sindhi. All are derived independently from the Prakrits, or vulgar Sanskrit idioms, which formed the connecting link between classical Sanskrit and the Neo-Sanskritic tongues as first represented in literature by the poet Chand. The Romni grammatical forms show that the dispersion took place while these tongues were still in process of formation, which would again point to the early part of the 11th century.

The Gypsies were first heard of in Greece (Crete) in 1322, and they soon after reached Wallachia, whence the second, or what may be called the European, dispersion took place. This also was connected with a Mohammedan conquest, for it followed immediately after the invasion of Wallachia by the Turks in 1415; hence their first appearance (see above) in Germany in 1417, in France 1427, and about the same time in England. That they reached England by this overland route, and not from Egypt, as was popularly supposed, seems evident from the fact that in the English Romni dialect there are Greek, Magyar (Hungarian), Slav, German, and French elements, but no Arabic or Coptic, which must have been picked up had they passed through the Nile delta. In recent years they have crossed the Atlantic, and Gypsy encampments are already familiar sights in some of the eastern states of the American Union; for wherever they wander they tenaciously adhere to their old nomad habits, and also everywhere show the same tastes and follow the same pursuits of tinkers, horsedealers, strolling minstrels, prowlers about farmyards, just like their Indian ancestry. Nevertheless there are exceptions, and the Tsiganes of Bulgaria have become a sedentary hard-working peasantry, have adopted the Moslem religion, and almost forgotten their Romni mother-tongue, now speaking either Turkish or Bulgarian even in their homes; but the type has remained quite pure, and can be instantly recognised amongst the surrounding populations. But there are two types (Jat and Dom) which may be best studied in Roumania, where some are distinguished by crisp black hair, thick lips, and a very dark complexion, others by a fine profile, regular features, and a light olive complexion. Here also they are grouped in three social classes, like the Hindu castes: (1) Laiesi, traders and minstrels; (2) Vatrari, servile, employed as domestics and retainers in the great houses; (3) Netotsi, the so-called "Atheists," most savage and wild of all the Gypsy race. Such distinctions are not observed amongst the western Gypsies, because after the Wallachian dispersion the classes became mixed, and all, so to say, "broke caste." (C. Leland, Proc. Philological Soc., March, 1879, and other writings; F. Kanitz, Mittheilungen der Anthrop. Gesellschaft, Vienna, 1877; J. W. Ozanne, Three Years in Roumania, 1878; Borrow; Miklosich.)