The Romani (aka Gypsies, though some consider that a slur) are nomadic people who dispersed across Europe about a thousand years ago. In other languages they have exonyms like tzigane, gitan, and bohème, but "Romani" seems to be the preferred term nowadays.

But if one wanted to speak about them in Latin, what term should be used?

  • Romani and roma are endonyms (names they use for themselves), but using Romanus seems overly confusing in Latin, since they don't come from Rome.
  • Bohème can be back-derived to Bohemi(c)us, but they're not from Bohemia/the Czech Republic either.
  • "Gypsy" and gitan both go back to Aegypti(c)us, but they're not from Egypt.
  • Tzigane and its relatives come from Greek ἀθίγγανος "untouchable", which would give Latin athinganus or intangibilis, but I can't see that as anything other than insulting.

In Romanian they're called Rromani or Rroma to distinguish them from, well, Romanians. But starting a word with a double letter looks distinctly non-Latin to me.

  • In Romanian they're called Rromani or Rroma... - that is not accurate. The correct Romanian forms are "rom/romi" (Roma person, singular/plural), "rom/romă" (adjective, masculine/feminine; rarely, academic: "romani" ), hard to confuse them with Romanian (noun: român, româncă, adjective: român, română). But the English form Romani is closer to Romanian name of the country (România) and that has created a rather dubious (nationalistic) trend of double-r forms being tolerated in print in non-academic context. But that trend is marginal, as double-r is unheard of in Romanian.
    – cipricus
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 9:44

2 Answers 2


The relevant entry in Smith's Copious & Critical English-Latin reads "gipsy: Cingarus, Zingarus, f. -a :after their Italian name Zingari, The Gipsies, *Aegypti qui feruntur."

That seems quite acceptable to me. However, since there is no classical precedent, I should think that you can please yourself on this. My own preferred word is gitanus, which in a very small poll that I once conducted was felt to be more readily recognised as 'gipsy', presumably because of familiarity with the brand Gitanes of French cigarettes.

[As an aside, there is a peripatetic cricket club in the UK and Australia, I Zingari so called because they have no home ground.]

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    Is that considered not offensive? I have no experience with this myself, but comparing to the list above Zingarus would seem to come from athinganus, which is why I'd held off on it.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 17:32
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    @Draconis I'm baffled. Which bit do you think might be offensive, and how?
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 18:03
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    I was considering zingarus potentially offensive because of its source. But it sounds like it's sufficiently detached from the source that it's considered neutral now.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 18:25
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    @Draconis As far as I know, the single, possibly offensive use of 'untouchable' is when it refers to the lowest Hindu caste (in Hindi the harijan championed by Mahatma Gandhi) or anyone not a Hindu, but it requires a deal of imagination to make it so.
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 19:27

The Latin wikipedia uses Zingari as generic term and offers a lot of more terms.

  • The use of Zingari is not sourced by la.wp. But Cingari is said to be in a dictionary of medieval Latin
    – Rafael
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 17:22

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