Tzigania  ---Tzigania

Dissecting Romani  

An Etymological Study of the Gypsy Language

Brushing back the layers of time  revealing the mysteries of the Roma’s long march west

 by Chuck Todaro

    The language of thieves, tatar, egyptian or even gibberish are just some of the slanderous labels attributed to the language of the Gypsies. The Indo-Aryan language family of the Roma, akin to Hindustani, Bengali, Punjabi, Singhi, Nepali, was a sound Europeans had never heard before. The phonetics and the timing of their arrival drew associations to the enemy Tatar and the Turks – many were accused spies. The language was banned in many corners of Europe, forbidden in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the cost of flogging; Spain, Germany and England all took great effort to wipe out the Gypsy culture.


    The Roma survived much in part because the language survived. Lacking their own homeland, the language tended to fill the gap as their singular unifying identifier: it defined them, united them and gave their wandering race something concrete to cling onto preventing them from slipping down into the great European melting pot that had absorbed all the other eastern invaders before them.  Within their tight nit communities Romani stood as the designated national language while outside their domain, it became a useful tool for discreet communications, a secret language, so to speak, to both shield and protect - as demonstrated through this funny anecdote told by Romanian-Roma Ghiocel Cobzaru:

 “A Gypsy boy accused of stealing is called-in to the court house.
He arrives with his father. Looking down from his bench the judge asks, “you steal, boy?”

“Excuse me mister judge, the father says, “the boy doesn’t understand.” 
He turns to his son, “chorditai dade kostorelo” (you steal?) he asks in the language of the Gypsies.

The boy replies, “tami dada” (yes, father)

The man turns back to the judge, “you heard him mister judge, the boy didn’t steal anything.”*

Police and the Gypsies

    The Gypsy language was used as a tool of defense in an often hostile world much like Yiddish of the Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jedezmo. “It is the protective nature of Jewish and most clearly Gypsies that keeps outsiders from knowing about their own affairs that makes it difficult for the outside world to comprehend the Roma ways,” writes Walter O. Weyrauch’s in Romani Legal Traditions and Culture. *


    While Gypsy and the Jewish cultures have many parallels - they drastically split in the area of literacy.......     



Tzigania Project is sadly no longer able to freely offer our exclusive research online due to plagiarism and other unconsented usage of our material.

 Our movement has always strongly believed in sharing objective truths of Roma history and culture as a means of combatting the abundance of misinformation and biased opinions feeding the stereotypes.

 Our excusive research is still freely available at our learning center locations. Contact us with ANY questions: