What is a Gypsy?

Learn more about gypsies

Many think of a gypsy as a dark-skinned, dark-haired person who travels from place to place with no fixed home, picking up seasonal work and telling people their fortunes. There is a lot more to this romantic, mysterious and interesting group of people than you may think.

The story of the gypsies started more than 1500 years ago when a large nomadic population of North India left India for the West. After 500 more years, they reached Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey), where they were allowed to settle. From Turkey, many continued throughout Europe, and you can find them in most European countries, and even North America and Australia.

The gypsies are considered an ethnic group and they have their own culture and traditions. Their language is Romany. Many are still nomadic, but after centuries of persecution and a restless life on the roads, most have now established roots. There are almost 14 million gypsies in Europe, and they are considered to be Europe's largest ethnic minority.

The word gypsy is used in many ways. Some people use the word "gypsy" to describe or define a person who is free-spirited, nomadic, and living an unconventional way of life. People who move from place to place for employment are also sometimes referred to as gypsies. Even a chorus line member in a theater production may be called a gypsy.

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