View Full Version : Gypsy nicknames?

03-25-2006, 04:01 PM

03-26-2006, 03:21 AM
'Pikeys' and 'Gippos'

03-26-2006, 03:46 AM

(the) Rose











Fred (just kidding)

Anya Smith
03-26-2006, 04:24 AM
Hi, good folks!
I was wondering if anyone could help me find nicknames and insults for Gypsies (Romani) in (British) English. I've been looking for a while, but haven't had much luck.
I'd be so grateful. Thanks so much!
PS. And no, I won't use them myself;) My story includes intolerance.

I bought a Gypsy dictionary last summer in Europe because one of my novels needs a few words ans sentences. It has no names, but I picked up a few names here and there. First off, the nick name is "Roma", not Romani.

Names: Appollonia, Appo for short; Vellorca, Lorca for short; Sarina, Rina for short; these are female names.

Roe, Lali, are the only male nicknames I know.

If you need specific words I can look them up for you.


Mac H.
03-26-2006, 04:11 PM
It's great you've found the answer you were looking for.

Another good resource for future problems is 'The Racial Slur Database' (http://www.certifiedchinesetranslation.com/rsdb/).

Some of the entries aren't slurs so much as popular expressions (eg: ABC for Australian/American Born Chinese is used a lot) but they are great for writing. The aims of the site maybe somewhat dubious, but it is still a great resource.


[updated url]

03-26-2006, 06:09 PM
In Britain they are usually called Travellers, but I think that's the oppoite of derogatory - it's the PC name for them! And yet it has come to be derogatory, because, at least in my area, you get headlines like "Travellers Leave Trash on Campsite" or whatever.

Edit to add: seems that technically, Travellers are actually different from Gypsies. Here's a site that might be helpful:
However, I think most people here don't know the difference and just call them all Travellers.

03-26-2006, 07:09 PM
One derogatory name I found is "tinker". Is this valid, can anyone say?

I don't know if it was derogatory or not, but wasn't Tinker what a guy was called that used to come around every so often (possibly when the Gypsies were in the area) to fix things for people? He'd go around to the homesteads and repair things for money or barter? I seem to remember Louis L'Amour had a character in his books called the Tinker.

Don't forget also that the Gypsies had a way of marking friendly territory. Some people didn't want them around. If they approached a house and the folks were friendly and gave food or whatever, they somehow left a mark where other Gypsies would know what to expect.

03-26-2006, 11:03 PM
When I was living in Ireland in the 1980's, traveling people were called "tinkers" in a derogatory way. I'm sure at least the older generations would still use that term. Most of the travelers in Ireland are Irish, though, not Roma.

03-26-2006, 11:08 PM
Just in case anyone is wondering, travellers is spelt with double-l in Brit English

03-27-2006, 12:26 AM
As Nancy pointed out, 'Tinkers' are Irish travellers rather than Romanies. As Fern said, they used to go round mending pots and pans and sharpening knives. (Hence the name, which comes from the Irish for 'tinsmith')

The word is still used here in Scotland - and mothes will say things like: 'Look at the state of you. You're like a wee Tink!' to a dirty child.

03-28-2006, 02:13 AM
In the part of Ireland my wife comes from (Galway) they call them tinkers or knackers - neither are positive terms.

There do not seem to be many of the Roma left on the roads. Most of the people travelling today are Irish

03-29-2006, 12:49 AM
I agree: My better half is Scottish and when I suggested that we call our (still non-existent) child "Katinka" ("tink" for short), he almost keeled over. Suffice it to say that although he's only in his 30's, he is well acquainted with the term "tinker" or "tink", and it's not nice.

On another note, I think that most of the "gypsies" in the UK are more often than not "travellers" and Irish (and "technically", I think the term "pikey" refers to these "Irish Gypsies", rather than the Roma. [EDITED TO ADD: I may be wrong on that - just did some research and it's confusing! So my new answer is: My impression is that "pikeys" refers to Irish gypsies, but I may be wrong - Am going to research it a bit more and get back.]).

The actual Romani people (i.e. European gypsies from Eastern and Central European countries such as Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, etc. but ultimately originating from India) are still very common here in Central / E. Europe, despite the Nazi's hard efforts to the contrary.

There has been a great deal of vioence and racism against the Roma in Slovakia since the 90's (where they represent a relatively large portion of the population, something in the region of 3 - 5% of total pop), and my better half was in Romania last summer for work and witnessed firsthand not only their loud and exuberant presence but also the bigotry and racism towards them that still exists towards them in that region.

Have a lot of sources about them if you're interested, and can find more. PM me or let me know here if you're interested and I'll dig them out and post them.


In the part of Ireland my wife comes from (Galway) they call them tinkers or knackers - neither are positive terms.

There do not seem to be many of the Roma left on the roads. Most of the people travelling today are Irish

04-25-2006, 07:18 PM
Hello Tilda,

I am a Romani~Gypsy and I would like to know why you are searching for derogatory names for us? I live in England and my people have been here for more than 500 years, and during that time we have suffered many persecutions... in fact since we migrated from India over 1,000 years ago, we have suffered many persecutions. We are a proud 'race' of people, and I would like to tell you that such remarks as 'gypo' and 'pikey' are racist!

I would like to know if any of you people would feel it would be acceptable to post such remarks about other 'races' of people .. you see, my friend, 'pikey' is as racist as 'paki' or '******' and I would like to know why you wish to insult me and my people, when clearly you know absolutely nothing about us, our ways, culture or traditions.

I would appreciate a reply from you.

04-25-2006, 07:27 PM
Hahaha I notice that one of the racist words I used as an example has been starred out! Does this not say it all??

Pikey, gypo and paki are still there ... are these also not RACIST WORDS? Yet why is it that such words are accepted amongst gorja's? Ohh and by the way ... 'gorja' is NOT a racist term, it is NOT derogatory in any way, it simply means 'non'Gypsy' in our own language.

I read an article in the Guardian Newspaper not so long ago .. it was entitled 'Acceptable Hatred' and was in connection to a group of gorja's who made 5 carboard models of Romani's ... some of those models were of children .. they then sat them in an old caravan and hung a sign on it saying 'PIKEYS' ... they then set fire to it whilst falling around laughing and shouting 'burn the pikey's' ... they were all arrested and prosecuted for racism and insighting hatred.

You wanted derogatory words for us? Then you you comment that we are a beautiful people! Forgive me for being disgusted with you, but myself and my people have to live with this every day of our lives!

You may also wish to know that 'Tinka/Tinker' has NOTHING to do with Romani peoples, Tinker is a derogatory term for the Irish Travellers who are a seperate and distinct race of people from my own. Irish Travellers speak a completely different language to us, and their ways and culture is also quite different. The nick-name Tinker was given to them by gorja's because Irish Travellers were mainly Tin-Smiths, it never used to be a derogatory term until gorja's made it so. Incidentally do you even know where the term 'pikey' came from??

Why do you gorja's feel that you can be an expert on us because of a few myths you have read about us? I am no writer, and like most of my people, have not been privilaged enough to receive a good education, many of us can not read nor write, so you will have to forgive my unstylised form of writing and spelling mistakes ... but I do hope you UNDERSTAND that before you put pen to paper or tap away at your keyboard to write anything about my people you first need to speak with us, and even then you probably won't be able to shake your misguided romantic myths created by such gorja's as yourself.

I would still like a reply from you.

Kushti bok.

04-25-2006, 07:59 PM
Rawnie: Please don't be offended at Tilda's question. If you will notice the last sentence in her first post, she refers to the story she is writing including intolerance. She wants her story to be authentic.

Most folks on this forum are intolerant of intolerance. Many other races and even various groups of people also put up with derogatory remarks on a daily basis. It isn't right, but it happens.

People responding on these forums are usually just trying to help a fellow writer. Many times the information is based on what we've heard or read elsewhere and you were spot on with your comment about myths. . .what we read and believe may not always be correct.

I, for one, am sorry you were offended. Perhaps this would be an opportunity for you to make sure what is told in Tilda's story is correct information.

04-25-2006, 09:26 PM
Hello Tilda,

I am sorry I misread your reasons, however, I still feel that there is an awful lot you need to learn about my people before you go writing anything about us. How do you know the person in your story is authentic when you do not even know that 'Kushti bok' means good luck in our language? Every Romani in England says this, we never say goodbye as it is considered bad luck.

Please feel free to ask me anything you may wish to know about Romani Gypsies. Please understand, that reading a few things on the internet or in books will not provide you with enough research to write about an 'authentic' Gypsy. The word 'Gypsy' for example should always be written with a capital 'G' as when it is written in lower case 'g' it is also derogatory. In India 'gypsy' with a lower case 'g' is used to describe criminal and migrant classes, without any references to their ethnic origin. So it is written Gypsy out of respect to my people.

I also appolagise if I offended anyone here, this was not my intention. However, I also believe that everything happens for a reason, and that each person we meet, we meet for a reason... perhaps I came across this site because we were meant to rokker (talk), and in may also save you a lot of researching on the net!?

If you would like to rokker with some real life English Romanies there is a site which I believe has only just opened , and maybe you would like to take a look. , it provides some excellent information about my people, and they may also be able to help you.... "Be the change you want to see" (Gandhi)


Please feel free to ask me anything about Romanies.

Kushti bok (Good Luck)

04-25-2006, 09:27 PM
Hello - i am a Romany Gypsy and a writer myself - and i appreciate that Tilda is writing in regard to intolarance and appreciate her motives may be entirely due to writers authenticity. However, many offensive and derogative terms placed on various races even when used for the right reasons engenders the usage of these words and further invloves them in the daily vocabulary of those that read them.That is to say that referring to these derogative terms on a regualar basis brings them into the normal vocabulary passed down to the children and the childrens' children, e.g. the f*** word is now spoken as part of everyday language, p*** is now incorrectly used towards those of Asian descent and until recently the term N***** was reconised as a description of various African/Carribebean persons - do you now see my point?The continued use of these words and the derogative words for Romanys simply furthers their useage in the modern vocabulary and makes said words an everyday description of those persons or actions (as in f*** for sex etc , already previously mentioned).It is only by negating these words that they cease to have meaning or usage - so whilst i do appreciate Tildas' reasons for requiring these derogative terms, i do feel that there must be a limit to the usage of them and it must be made clear that these are not exceptable in everyday vocabulary - and are infact derogative insults used to engender racism and intolarance.When one is required or wishes to compose a piece which may include inflammatory and derogative terms one must expect some reaction - even if their motives are entirely innocent. Careful thought should therefore be given before embarking on such a venture and deep consideration must be given as to wether ones integrity is beyond reproach - as undoubtly it will be called into question!I have never used any derogative in my own writing - and it has not deterred from the content nor the completed peice - are these words therfore, wish Tilda wishes to obtain - really required in showing intolarance?I think not - there are many methods of conveying a subject without the need to use these terms - might Tilda use other options? Please believe me when i say this - a greater audience is found for ones work via other options then ever in the one the lady is proposing.I hope i have not offended by candidness - but directness has always been the best approach in my opinon.kushti bok!

04-25-2006, 11:19 PM
Hello Tilda!

I am so glad that we have reached a kushti (good) understanding, and I am honoured to have met you, as many gorja writers don't even wish to take the time to get to know the folki they choose to write about, but chose instead to lean on the romanticism and the stereotypes which was created many moons ago! I am also pleased that you like the site I gave you the link for!

I mentioned earlier that many Romanies can not read and write very well if at all, and many are not even aware of the capital 'G' themselves! This is because lils (books) are usually written about us, and not read by us. However, with the the younger generations, and the internet, things are starting to change, thank goodness. There are even some of my people who are not aware that we have our own flag! To understand this, one has to delve into the history and persecutions, which has been rife throughout our journies, and is still apparent today in every country we have settled.

I can not rokker for our Rroma folki in your tem (country), but here in England, we were once punished with heavy fines for even finding an atching tan (stopping place) at the side of the road, to speak our own jib (language/tongue) was once punishable with the death penalty! Consequently many of our pureno folki (ancestors/elders) were too traished (afraid) to teach their chavvies (children) the jib. What we pooker (speak) in England is a broken version of Romanes, a mixture of English, and Cant (Irish/Scottish Traveller slang .. their jib is called Shelta or Gammon, their slang version is Cant), then there is Show/circus folki slang as they too have their own jib, and mumpers slang (mumpers are the hobo's) As chavvies to use such slangs would have got you a clip round the ear hole by our parents, as it was as bad as swearing! These days, however many Romanies rokker such slangs. The internet is helping us to learn more and to claim back that which was lost and taken from us in our parent's and grandparent's days. But we are still up against a lot of racism.

I myself have been brought up in a kenna (house), which is happening moe and more as governments are driving us off the drom (road) and into sites and houses. Some of the sites are in terrible conditions, and gorja's protest. Many do not know the difference between the many different groups of 'Gypsy' and lump us all the same ... some (without mentioning names) do give we Romanies a terrible reputation, as they are always getting drunk and fighting, causing trouble, and their sites are filthy. A HUGE part of our culture is 'mokkadi' which is a strickt cleanliness in our homes and within our selves. Gorja shout 'dirty gypo's' at us ... yet I promise you that you will never find a dirty Romani home, beit caravan, trailer or kenna.

Here is a poem by an 8 year old Gypsy boy:

I often walk school fields alone,
Just like the roads we choose to roam,
It's a lonely place for someone like me,
I get pushed around, and never let be,
Getting called Gypsy scum and a pikey at that,
They spit in my face and knock off my hat,
Mum's been to the school, had a scream and a shout,
But nothing got logged and no kids got chucked out,
But today I saw my life pass my eyes,
As I lay on my school field, a child despised,
Five kids around me and they kicked with sheer hate,
No one cared, I was in such a state,
Why do they hate me I've done them no wrong,
I'm here in their school, I just want to belong,
I come here to learn how to read and to write,
I didn't come tolearn every day I must fight,
Fight for my righ as a child to be free,
To live in peace in this society.

So, Tilda, for the gorja chavvies who have not yet learned such lavs (words) as pikey, do you really want to teach them this? Racist lavs are as 'wafti' (bad) as adult swear words, and I use my own jib to describe 'bad' as in our jib wafti is more than bad and has a deeper meaning than just a lav.

Tilda, you are a 'porengri' (porengro for male) which means writer, and I know that you understand that to be given such a gift of 'words' is a power, but such a power can be abused, and I am not saying that you abuse your wonderful gift of words, but Tilda, please, with your wonderful gift of words you have the power to create magic or mayhem, and a porengri carries a huge responsability because you gift chavvies minds with stimmulation and imagination, you place words in their mui's (mouths) let those words be words of power, self-empowerment to every chavvie who loses themselves in the world you create for them .. life is a very special journey Tilda, and you have the powerful gift to jake every chavvie on a special and wonderful journey.

Kushti bok my friend.

04-26-2006, 01:36 PM
Hello Tilda,

Sarshin? (How are you)

I am glad you like our beautiful language, and that you wish to learn more.

To answer your question, a Romani marrying a gorja is not liked at all. There are some tribes of Romani who say that, if a Romani mush (man) marries a gorja woman then she becomes Romani and so do her chavvies, but if a Romani rackli (girl) marries a gorja mush, then she is an outcast and so are her chavvies .. they are never allowed to call themselves Romani. I think the chavvies with a Romani father and a gorja mother, are invited to family celebrations and get together's but there are some they are excluded from also, posh-ratt's are generally looked down on. Posh (half) ratt (blood) I think here in England, there are still many Romanies who look down on posh-ratt's and didakkai's (less than half) but many of our ways are more diluted than some tribes abroad. We have love marriages, and do not have to prove purity to drabbers (doctors) or family members, this is between the newly-weds themselves, whereas abroad there is a big ceramony surrounding the confirmation of brides purity. We do not have arranged marriages, and money does not change hands as a bride price. Romani women here don't get married in red anymore (not all do abroad either) many Romani's here are Christian's so are married in a church. The Light & Life Church here have and are doing alot to help preserve our jib.

Sex before marriage is very rare, and Romani rackli's generally marry in their late teens/early 20's. Parent's are very strickt about chastity. Racklies are expected to help their mother with cleaning and looking after the younger familia members ... you can read more about this in Journey Folki site!

Here the wife usually stays at home to care for the chavvies, and keep a kushti clean home and look after her husband, but if she wanted to go to work then she could no problem. The mush's usually leave school at 11 years old, and start working. Most Romanies are self-employed, and one of the main trades today is tarmacing, flagging, fencing and of course the gryengro's (horse dealers) We have annual gry (horse) fairs in various parts of the country, and foki turn up in their 100's in bow top or open lot gry drawn vardo's. These fairs are our equivelent of the American Indian Pow Wow's!

Some main Romani trades are hawking (selling, sometimes door-to-door) hop picking, peg making, black smiths, general dealers, horse dealers, basket makers, leather workers ... a lot of the trades I think may have come from India too? We have adapted to England's ways since arriving here some 500+ years ago, and admit a lot of our old ways are no more .. governments do not help! In other parts of the world, such as Rumania, Hungary, Czech, Brazil etc, Romanies speak a purerer version of our jib which is 'vlax' ... many of them do not recognise a lot of our lavs. Having said that I was recently rokkering with a Rumanian Romani and we managed to understand what we were saying. Romanies can rokker to one another no matter what part of the world they are settled.

Here is The Lord's Prayer in Romanes for you:

Amaro Dadus
Savo jives drey o tem oprey
Be sherrafo tiro nav
Avel tiro
Be kaired tiro buti
Oprey o poov sar drey o tem oprey
Del mandi to-divvus amaro divvesko
Ta fordel mandi mandi's pizarripens
Sar mandi fordels wafor mushes
lengues pizarripens
Ta ma sik mandi o drom te temtation
But lel mandi abri fon wafodupen
For tiro se o tem
O ruslipen ta o corami
Cana ta ever-komi
So covar ajaw.

The spellings mary vary from one Rom to another, as our jib was never really a written jib, but oral. It is only within the last few years, and with the internet that it has become written down. Although George Borrows did attempt to write a lil of our jib in the 1800's, but did get a lot of lavs completely wrong ... Romani's would never rokker the jib in front of gorja's, let alone teach them, even in my father's day, as we always kept it among ourselves. In my poppa's days, if you couldn't rokker the jib, then you weren't Romani. However, these days is different, again with the internet, and in the struggle to keep what we have left of our jib alive.

In the site link I gace you www.JourneyFolki.org.uk (http://www.journeyfolki.org.uk/) they have a page entitled 'Recommended Publications' and there is a lil there called 'We Are the Romani People' by Professor Ian Hancock (himself a Romani) I strongly suggest that you buy this lil and read it! There is a lot of excellent teachings and explanations about our history, traditions etc. The lil is intended for anyone working with, or writing about our people, so that you will have a better understanding and also dispel the many myths about us! It discusses in detail about the Holocaust 'O barro Porrajmos' this in our jib has a deeper and much more terrible meaning than 'Holocaust' some will not rokker it. Romanies are still fighting for acknowledgement of our folki (mainly Sinti's) who were in those camps, and despite the fact that Hitler, his death squads and the German folki at the time, actually believed Gypsies to be lower and less human than the Jews.. yet still we are not included in history lils, programms and films. It is as if they are trying to write us out of history, which sums up the world-wide attitude towards my folki.. that we are still considered not good enough. Yet we are a beautiful race of folki, with strong spirits full of fire and passion!

kushti divvus (good day)

05-02-2006, 05:19 AM
There's a book called "Bury Me Standing." It was published about 15 years ago (?) and as I recall was pretty informative about Gypsy culture. Don't know if people were offended by it, though.