(Plural of Gypsy) A name given to the Romani people, a group found primarily in southern and eastern Europe as well as western Asia and the Middle East, although they are also found throughout Europe, Britain, and the US. They are traditionally known for wandering and the colorful wagons in which they used to travel. The term “gypsy” is sometimes used to mean a wanderer.
Although most Romani people speak the local language, they originally spoke a language derived from Indian Sanskrit before migrating to Europe and Asia about 1,000 years ago. The term “Gypsy” was given to them because it was believed they came not from India, but from Egypt, where they were supposedly exiled for hiding the infant Jesus.
As wanderers, some Romani used various forms of entertainment, rather than set jobs, to earn a living. This included forms of fortunetelling (especially the use of cards and palmistry) as well as performing spells for people seeking love or to right perceived wrongs.
In some places, “gypsy” is a negative epithet, implying thievery and deceit. The slang expression “to gyp” means to cheat someone out of something and is believed to be based on the idea that gypsies behave this way. Like all groups of people, there are Romani who are ethically good, bad, and in between, and there is no evidence to support the claim that Romani are more or less honest than any other group. However, because when they came into Europe wearing different clothes and speaking a different language, they were easy and unfortunate targets. Just as the Jews were targeted by the Nazis for annihilation, so too were Gypsies. It has been estimated that as many as 500,000 Gypsies, nearly all the Romani in eastern Europe, were killed during the Nazi Holocaust.
Today, many people are researching the remarkable history of the Romani people, and some are especially focused on their magickal and divinatory techniques.