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24 September 2014
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Early history
Click for bigger picture.It was in the 15th century that reports began to be written about bands of dark foreigners arriving in different parts of Europe.
Hungarian Gypsies pictured at Mitcham in 1910

They travelled on horseback and in wagons, they were frequently richly dressed and dark in complexion with gold coins woven into their black hair.

Soon they gained a reputation as fortune tellers and magicians and frequently described themselves as dukes or princes of Egypt.

The first written records of these 'Egyptians' in Britain is in 1505, but we have no way of knowing for how long they may already have been here.

Where they had originally come from remained a mystery until the 18th century when an academic in Hungary realised that the language spoken by his local 'Gypsies' was similar to one that was spoken in India.

Further analysis revealed that Romany was in fact a sanskrit dialect that originated in the Indus Valley in Northern India in the ninth century. It is thought that a tribe of people left there and travelled through Persia to reach Eastern Europe about 1000 years ago eventually arriving on our shore a few hundred years later.

Today's Travellers still speak their own version of Romany or Romanes. Mixed in with the sanskrit words are others which derive from Greek, Romanian and Slavic as well as cant, the language of the sturdy beggars of Elizabethan England together with other local words and bits of rhyming slang.

Versions of the language are spoken by different groups of Roma across Europe from the Kalderash of Hungary to the Gitanes and Sinti of France and the Mustalainen of Finland.


Making a living
Horse drawn days
Settling down
Modern times

Gypsy Travellers
Friends, Families & Travellers
More from Romany Roots
Setting the scene
Early history
Making a living
Horse drawn days

Settling down
Modern times


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