Romani (Gypsy) culture and social issues.


This glossary attempts to explain some of the terms used throughout Patrin. It is not a dictionary of the Romanes language, but does include commonly used Romanes words. 

For the purpose of this glossary, the double-"r" spelling may be used to to make the clear distinction between the Romani language and people and the Eastern European country of Romania and its people.

"Tribes" or "nations" of Roma are designated by the symbol.

Special acknowledgement is given to Rom Dr. Ian Hancock for the many books, articles and papers he has written to preserve and advance the Romanes language. His contributions to Romani linguistics, as well as to Roma rights and consciousness, are recognized worldwide. Other sources for this glossary are listed below.

We hope you find this addition useful. If you have a term that you feel should be added please send email to <>.

Related articles:
The Claim of Lexical Impovershment as Control by Ian Hancock 
A Wandering Voice: The Language of the Gypsies by Giulio Soravia 
Romanichal Word List. by Manfri Wood


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Abiav (also abijav, bijav, amnjav, ebav). Marriage, wedding; also festivity or party (Romanes). 

Aresajpe. The first arrival of the Roma into Europe in the 14th century (Romanes).

Argintari.  Silversmiths (Romanian).

Athinganoi. From Greek meaning "do not touch." Byzantine heretic religious sect which practiced isolationism. Name erroneously applied in various forms to Roma.

Aurari. Goldwashers. Also called Zlatari (Romanian).

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Balame. Greek Romanes for gadje, from the Romanes balamó meaning non-Roma.

Balkan. As applied to dialects of Romani, includes those which developed south of Moldavia and Wallachia. They are spoken today mainly in Greece and Bulgaria.

Balkans. An area of southeastern Europe which includes continental Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Yugoslavia, Romania and sometimes Hungary.

Baxt. Good luck (Romanes).

Baxtaló (or Bahktaló). Lucky or happy (Romanes).

Beng. Devil (Romanes). 

Beticos. Castilian-speaking Analusian Roma who have permanently settled in house-caves or town houses in such areas as Granada city and Guadix.

Bibaxt. Bad luck (Romanes).

Bori. Daughter-in-law (Romanes).

Boša. Roma in Armenia who call themselves Lom; speakers of Central Romani dialects (Armenian).

Boyash (also Bayash, Beyash). A Vlax Romani population, wide spread throughout Europe and the Americas, who descend from the Rudari and who have a Rumanian dialect as their native language instead of Romanes.

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Calderari (or Kalderash, Kalderasha, Keldarash). Traditionally makers of copper vessels. Today they are known for making and fixing copper drainage pipes. Also known as "Coppersmiths" (Romanian).

Calé (or Kalé). Spanish Roma. 

Calé (or Kalé, Caló, Cali).  Iberian Romanes dialect, meaning "black", a hybrid of Romani lexicon and Castilian phonology, morphology and syntax.

Castellanos. Castilian-speaking Roma in the general area of Castile, Spain, many of whom are still nomadic.

Chivute (Spoitoresele). Whitewashers (Romanian).

Churára. From churi, meaning knife. Known for making strainers and other cooking utensils out of aluminum and wood (Romanes).

Costorari. Tinners (Romanian).

Cutitari. Known for sharpening cutlery, scissors, knives, and anything with a metal blade (Romanian).

Cyganie. Polish for Gypsy, from Athinganoi.

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Danubian. A branch of European or Western Rromanes: also called Vlax.

Darro (or dáro). Dowry, or bride-price; gift (Romanes).

Del (also Devel). God (Romanes).

Desrobireja. Emancipation from slavery (Romanes, from Romanian).

Dikló. Head-scarf, kerchief, shawl (Romanes).

Diváno. Meeting or discussion (Romanes).

Dom. Speakers of Eastern Romani dialects.

Dom. A menial class in India whose occupations include musicians, slaughterers and janitors, and members of the Sudra caste. Believed by some to be the ancestors of the Roma.

Domari. The language of the Dom; speakers of the dialects of Eastern Romanes, inhabiting Syria and other parts of the Middle East (Domari).

Domba. Hypothesized ancestors of all three branches of Roma.

Dombari. The Proto-Romanes language.

Drab. Herbs (Romanes).

Drom. Road (Romanes).

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Ferari (or Herari). Workers in iron. Traditionally known as blacksmiths and repairers of carriages. Today many work repairing metal containers (Romanian).

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Gabori. Traditionally known for making and repairing furnaces and hot water bottles. Today many buy and sell clothing and jewelry at markets and fairs (Romanian).

Gadjikano. Masculine singular adjective meaning "non-Roma" (Romanes).

Gadjo (or Gazhó, Gajó). Male non-Roma, plural Gadje. The feminine form is Gadji, plural Gadja (Romanes).

Galbi. Gold coins, often worn around the neck on a chain, in a woman's hair, or on the clothing as jewelry or buttons (Romanes).

Gitane. Dialect of Romanes spoken by Gitans in the south of France heavily influenced by Spanish and French.

Gitanos. Iberian Roma who no longer speak pure Romanes, but Kalé (Spanish).

Gitans. Located in southwestern France, descended from the Gitanos of Spain (French).

Gorgio. Romanichal term for Gadje and Gadjo.

Gypsy (or Gipsy). Corruption of "Egyptian." Popular, yet pejorative, term for the Roma, or Romani people; originating from the mistaken belief that the Roma were from Egypt.

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Hungaros (also Zingaros). Kalderash Roma in Spain, who entered Spain from Central Europe in recent times.

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Jekhipe (or Yekhipe). Unity, literally "oneness" (Romanes).

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Kak (also kako). Uncle; respectful form of address for an older male person, usually the chief of a tribe (Romanes).

Kalderash (or Kalderasha, Calderari ).Traditionally makers of copper vessels (Romanian).

Kalé (or Calé, Caló, Cali).  Iberian Romanes dialect, meaning "black", a hybrid of Romani lexicon and Castilian phonology, morphology and syntax.

Kirpachi. Basketmakers (Romanian).

Kovachi. Blacksmiths (Romanian).

Kris. Court, trial, justice or fate (Romanes).

Kris-Romani. Council of Roma elders (Romanes).

Kumpania. Romanes word meaning a group of Roma travelling or living together in a territory in an economic and residential association.

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Lautari. Musicians; strictly, fiddlers (Romanian, from Turkish/Arabic).

Lavúta. Violin; bari lavúta: viola (Romanes).

Lil (plural lila). Book (Romanes)

Lingurari. Makers of wooden spoons, rolling pins, and cutlery (Romanian).

Lomavren. The language of the BoŠa (Lomavren).

Lowára (or Lowrara, Lovara).  Traditionally horse traders.

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Machwáya.  Supposedly from the Serbian province of Matsva.

Manouches. French Roma, from the Romanes word "manúŠ", meaning "person".

Marimé (also mahrimé, mahrimo). Impure or defiled (Romanes).

Márturo. Martyr or prophet (Romanes).

Mensch. Sinti term for Roma, from the German meaning "People".

Mestere-Lacatuchi. Makers of keys, locks and burglar-bars (Romanian).

Muló. Dead or death (Romanes).

Mulaní (also mulanó, muló). Ghost (Romanes).

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Nátsia (plural natsiyí). A nation or tribe of Roma (Romanes).

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Patrin (or pateran, pyaytrin, or sikaimasko). Marker used by traveling Roma to tell others of directions, also used for passing on news using prearranged signals. Also, a leaf or page (Romanes).

Payo. Kalé term for gadjo.

Pliashka (or plotchka). Engagement feast (Romanes).

Pomana. Wake (Romanes).

Porrajmos (or Porajmos, O Porraimos). Literally the Devouring. The Holocaust, 1933-1945. Coined by Ian Hancock (Romanes).

Potcovari.  Ironworkers and shoers of horses (Romanian).

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Rajputs. A predominantly military northwestern Indian people, who claim to be descended from the Kshatriyas. Believed by some scholars to have been the ancestors of the Roma.

Raklí. Non-Roma girl (Romanes).

Romanichal (also Romnichal, Romnichel). Designation for those Roma populations from northern Europe, especially the British Isles.

Romanestan (also Rromanestan). The proposed Roma state, once an active pursuit of many Roma activists as a national homeland.Te trayil Romanestan (May Romanestan yet live.) The slogan of the Phralipé, international nationalist Roma brotherhood. 

Romungro. Hungarian Roma generally known as musicians. Most speak Hungarian as their native language instead of Romanes.

Rom. In all varieties of Western Romanes this word is found meaning "husband" or "Roma man" (as opposed to Gadjo or non-Roma man); for Vlax-speaking Roma, it is further used to define themselves as opposed to other, non-Vlax speaking Roma groups. The feminine is Romni (Romanes).

Romanes. Adverbial form meaning "in the Roma manner"; also used to mean the Romani language, called Romani chib.

Romani (also Romni). Feminine singular adjective meaning "Roma." Often applied to the language, and used also as a noun (older spelling Romany or Rommany, plural Romanies).

Romania (or Romaniya). Roma customs and traditions. (Note: Romania, Rom, Roma, Romani, etc. should not connected or confused with the country of Romania, or Rome the city. These names have separate, distinct etymological origins and are not related.)

Rudari (also Rudars, Ludari, Blidari, Lingurari). Makers of wooden spoons, troughs, plates and spindles. The name Rudari was also applied to those engaged in goldwashing.

Ruv. Wolf (Romanes).

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Salahori. House-builders (Romanian).

Sárma (plural sármi). Stuffed cabbage (Romanes).

Sastimos (or Sastipé). Meaning "to your health" or healthy, generally used as a greeting (Romanes).

Schav (or schavó, chav). Roma youth or boy (Romanes).

Schej (or chej). Roma girl (Romanes).

Sfirnari. Traditionally known as animal dealers and trainers (mostly horses). Today many own small businesses (Romanian).

Sintajka. Sinti woman.

Sinti (or Senti, Cinti). German Roma.

Sinto. Sinti man.

Sitari. Known today for making strainers, rolling pins, and other cooking utensils (Romanian).

Slobuzenja. Freedom; Abolition of Romani Slavery in 1856 (Romanes, from Slavic).

Spoitoresele (or Kivoutse, Chivutsele). Whitewashers (Romanian).

Sudra. Lowest of the four Hindu castes, believed by some to have been the ancestors of the Roma (Sanskrit). See Rajputs.

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Tartar (or Tattare). Swedish for Gypsy, from the belief that they were from the nomadic people of Central Asia.

Tavringar (or Vandriar, Dinglare, Romanisæl, Resande).  Norwegian and Swedish Roma, also known as "Tatere" (Norwegian) and "Tattare" (Swedish). Still have much in common with both Sinti and Romanichals, from whom they are descended. 

Travelers (or Travellers). Itinerant peoples speaking a variety of argots, frequently confused by gadje as Roma.

Tsigan (plural Tsigani). Romanian for Gypsy, from Athinganoi.

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Ursari. Traditionally bear trainers and entertainers. Today many operate small businesses (Romanian).

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Vichy. Collaborationist government of France from 1941-1944 led by Marshal Philippe Pétain, with Vichy as the capitol of the French collaborationist regime. Nazi Germany occupied most of northern France, while Vichy administered the south. 

Vitsa (plural vitsi). A clan or social division within Vlax Romani society. Literally "vine" or "tendril" (Romanian, from Slavic).

Vlax (also Vlach, Wallachian or Danubian). A branch of European Romanes consisting of those dialects which developed in the Balkans during slavery time. They are characterized by massive lexical and structural influence from Romanian.

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Wandriar. Norwegian Roma, also known as "Tatere." (Norwegian).

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Xoraxai. Middle eastern Roma. (Turkish/Arabic).

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Yansers. Name applied to Gypsies in 19th century New York.

Yekhipe (or Jekhipe). Unity, literally "oneness" (Romanes).

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Zhamutro. Bridegroom or son-in-law (Romanes). 

Zigeuner. Gypsies (German).

Zigeunernacht. Literally, Night of the Gypsies. On August 1st, 1944, four thousand Roma were gassed and cremated in a single action at Auschwitz-Birkenau (German).

Zlatari (also called Aurari). Traditionally Goldwashers. Today they make drainage pipes and metal containers from zinc (Slavic).


Boretzky, Norbert and Igla, Birgit. Worterbuch Romani Deutsch Englisch (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1994)

Hancock, Ian. A Handbook of Vlax Romani (Columbus: Slavica Inc., 1995) 

Hancock, Ian. The Pariah Syndrome: An Account of Gypsy Slavery and Persecution (Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1987)

Sutherland, Anne. Gypsies: The Hidden Americans (Reprinted Prospect Heights: Waveland, 1986) 

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