Gypsy
Posted: 22 July 2007 02:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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First cite for this in OED is this:

1537 LD. CROMWELL in Ellis Orig. Lett. Ser. I. II. 101 The Kings Maiestie, about a twelfmoneth past, gave a pardonne to a company of lewde personnes within this realme calling themselves Gipcyans, for a most shamfull and detestable murder.

The Straight Dope says:

Anthropology professor Anne Sutherland in Gypsies: The Hidden Americans (1975) says the word Gypsy derives from the time when the Romani entered Western Europe and “represented themselves as Egyptians,” the name subsequently evolving into Gypsies.

Do any other European languages use a form of the word Egyptian (or its equivalent) for the Romani?

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Posted: 22 July 2007 06:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes.  Spanish gitano is from egiptano (and is the source of French gitane).  Many of the other European words are from Middle Greek (a)tsingganos, which is from an older Greek word athingganos ‘member of a heretical group in Anatolia.’

Incidentally, it was frustrating looking it up in my various foreign-language dictionaries because I’d try gypsy and it would say ”gypsy: see gipsy,” so with the next one I’d look under gipsy and it would say ”gipsy: see gypsy.” The OED says:

From the quotations collected for the dictionary, the prevalent spelling of late years appears to have been gipsy. The plural gypsies is not uncommon, but the corresponding form in the sing. seems to have been generally avoided, prob. because of the awkward appearance of the repetition of y.

What a stupid situation.

(That fascicle of the OED was published in March 1899, which means that “of late years” refers to the late 19th century.  The spelling with y now gets three times as many Google hits, so the pendulum seems to have reversed.)

Edit: Incidentally, the correctest word for a Gypsy is Rom, the plural of which is Roma (stress on the -a).  Romani is technically an adjective.

[ Edited: 22 July 2007 06:08 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 22 July 2007 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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As ever, Steve, a wonderfully informative reply.

I also wondered where zingari came from, and the German zigeuner. Are these the terms related to tsingannos? This wiki seems to indicate a connection (not an etymological one) between the words and the subgroup of gypsies known as Sinti.

Sinti or Sinte (Singular masc.=Sinto; sing. fem.=Sintisa) is the name some communities of the nomadic people usually called “Gypsies” in English prefer for themselves. This includes communities known in German and Dutch as Zigeuner and in Italian as Zingari. They are closely related to, and are usually considered to be a subgroup of, the Roma people. The origin of the name “Sinti/Sinte” is unclear, although it bears a similarity to the toponym Sindh (and inhabitants’ name, the Sindhis), the area which linguistic and cultural evidence indicates was the likely geographic origin of the Roma, in the Southeast of what is today Pakistan.

[ Edited: 22 July 2007 06:50 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 22 July 2007 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Zigeuner is from Hungarian Czigány (now written cigány), which is from South Slavic ciganin (c = /ts/ in both these words), which is from the Middle Greek word.  Italian zingaro is of the same origin, but presumably directly from Greek.  This word family has nothing to do with Sinti, and I don’t think the quoted text suggests it does—it’s talking about the communities, not the words, being related.

[ Edited: 22 July 2007 06:57 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 23 July 2007 06:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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This all reminds me of Philip Pullman in ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy using different words from the same derivations to suggest his parallel universes.

For example in Lyra’s world in the first book ‘gyptians’ for gypsies and ‘ambaric power’ for electricity.

An excellent and memorable trilogy.

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