The term gypsies is a misnomer, based on the erroneous belief that Egypt is their country of origin. A more appropriate term is the Romani people. The Roma left northern India about one thousand years ago, and they still speak a language called Romani, related to Sanskrit. They arrived in Europe in the fifteenth century, and some have migrated to the Western Hemisphere.

Who exactly is a “gypsy” is a matter of controversy. Outsiders coined the term, which embraces various groups that share characteristics but do not have the same historical origin. England, for example, has tried to police migratory populations by designating them “gypsies or travelers.” Migratory people were in Ireland and Scotland prior to the Roma. Irish or Scottish travelers were known as tinkers ...

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