The Gilded Thorn Band

of Fortnight, Drackenvelt, Warwick. Est. July 2014.

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Gypsy Terms 2

Gabriel Rose

Member Since: July 2014
Positions Held: Founding Member, Bandoleer: July 2014 - June 2015, January 2016 - Present.

Gypsy Terms 2

Post by Gabriel Rose on Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:51 pm

A lot of this repeats what is said in the previous "Gypsy Terms" post but there are a few additions that the other doesn't have. I'm just posting this here to save it so that one day we can have a comprehensive list of Gypsy terms.

Also weird thing I just noticed...this list is from instructions for actors at a Faire. A Faire that is coincidentally set in a town named Scarborough. Weird.


The Romany Culture and Language
Useful Gypsy Stuff You'll Want To Know

This glossary is meant to be a helpful guide to Romany (Gypsy) culture,
giving you the background material you need to convincingly play a Gypsy
character at Faire.  This allows us to get into the Gypsy mood and to
pepper our bits and dialogue with Romany words, thus accenting our
foreignness.  It's not meant to scare anyone -- most of this is just
background information (there won't be any tests, I promise!) and the
patrons aren't going to care if you know the Romany word for horse or
not.  Only the Important Terms are things you absolutely have to know
because they are such essential aspects of the culture, so don't stress
out over this.  Have fun as you learn about a new culture, one your
character is an important part of.  By the way, also keep in mind that
there hundreds of dialects of Romany, and words often differ slightly
from place to place (alternate spellings and pronunciations are given).
At Scarborough we generally use the Kalderash dialect, since our
characters are Kalderash Gypsies.
Oh, and if in doubt considering pronunciation, just remember that most
Romany words stress the penultimate -- next to last -- syllable.

Things Every True Rom Would Know (And You Should Too)

Basht (or baxt, bak) -- "Good Luck."  Luck, good and bad, is a very
important thing to the Rom (Gypsies).  Many things and situations,
ranging from amulets and silk to the sighting of comets and eclipses,
are considered basht.  Someone or something lucky is called bakalo, and
similarly, someone happy is baktalo.  

Bujo (BOO-zho) -- Literally "dishcloth over the eyes," a bujo is an
elaborate swindle to gain money from a Gaje (non-Gypsy).  Bujo is often
combined with dukkerin (fortune telling) in a way that convinces the
poor Gaje the only way he can avoid misfortune is to do what the kind
Gypsy suggests ("Give all that cursed money to me so it can be
spent....I mean burned, to rid you of the bad luck!").  In past
centuries, many Gypsies specialized in the art of Bujo, making it their
career. This was not because they were malicious or untrustworthy
people, but because hard times forced it upon them. And the Gaje are
just SO easy to trick! :~)

Gaje (GAH-zhe) (or Geyro, Giorgio) -- All non-Gypsies, any person not of
Romany heritage.    Gypsies are by necessity very insular people, and
the Gaje are viewed with suspicion and caution.  This is due to
centuries of persecution at their hands (to quote the Patrin web site:
"Since their entry into Europe, the Roma have been outlawed, enslaved,
hunted, tortured and murdered").  Gaje are viewed as foolish and
honorless, and thus it is considered all right to trick, swindle and
steal from them when it is necessary (there's also that story about how
Christ gave us permission to lie and steal, but I digress).  It is
considered very bad luck to associate with Gaje except to entertain,
swindle or do business with them.  However, we don't overemphasize these
prejudices at Scarborough -- we stick to the positive after all, and
Nikolai even has a dangerous (when Nadia catches him!) fancy for Gaje
women.  We ply our trades on them and allow them to believe they have
the upper hand.  As your character, though, remember that you are
something special, touched by destiny in a way no Gaje could ever

Mahrim (MAH-ree-may) (also Mokadi (mo-KAH-dee)) -- "Unclean and
impure in a spiritual way."  Ritual cleanliness is of great importance
to the Rom, and certain things, creatures and people are believed to be
tainted.  Such things are avoided religiously by all Rom.  These include
certain animals -- especially cats, rats, foxes (called mokadi jook,
"dirty dog"), and to an extent dogs (which are never supposed to enter a
vardo or be allowed to lick one's face).  Also tainted are blood
(especially menstrual blood), water a dog has drank from or a woman has
stepped over, and a variety of other items and situations. Some people
are considered mahrim, especially Gaje (and any Rom with a lot of
Gaje heritage), Pikies (Gypsies expelled from Romany society forever for
their crimes) and Hedgecrawlers (Travelers without Romany blood like the
Irish Tinkers).  Mulo (ghosts) and faeries are also most mahrim. All
these things may sound like mere superstitions, but they have kept the
Rom healthier than other peoples throughout history, especially during
the Plague. The code that regulates what is and is not mahrime is called
the Romipen, literally "Gypsyness".

Phral (FROLL) -- Literally "brother" in some Romany dialects, it means a
full-blooded Gypsy, a True Rom -- a very good thing to be.  Used as both
an adjective and a noun.

Prikaza (pree-KOZ-ah) -- "Bad Luck."  Prikaza is the result of coming
into contact with mahrim things, creatures or people -- bad luck
follows any who are tainted (there are, of course, ways to undo it).
Actions that cause prikaza include bringing a dog into a vardo, touching
or even coming into contact with a cat, becoming too close to the Gaje
and most of all mentioning any and all bodily fluids and functions -- a
strict taboo.  The color red in its primary, basic shade is also very
prikaza -- this shade of red dye almost never appears in Gypsy clothing,
and you will never see a vardo painted that color.

Rom, the (or Roma (ro-MAH)) -- The name that most Gypsies use for
themselves as a people.  The word Rom has three distinct meanings: 1)
The Gypsy race 2) A person of Gypsy heritage and 3) A married Gypsy man.
Rom only refer to themselves as Gypsies when around the Gaje.  The name
"Gypsy" stems from a swindle pulled by some of the first Rom in Western
Europe in the 1400's -- a Rom Baro (chieftain) obtained free passage for
his people across Europe by claiming that they were the deposed rulers
of Little Egypt, driven from their country by heathens and forced to
travel endlessly in penance.  It took several decades for the Gaje to
finally catch on, and the abbreviation 'Gyptian, later Gypsy, stuck.
Names for the Rom in other languages include Cigan (French & Hungarian),
Siganski (Russian), Zigeuner (German) and Zingaresca (Italian).  The Rom
originally came from northern India (leaving around the 10th century),
and have since developed a unique wandering lifestyle and culture while
traveling the world.  

Romany (RO-mah-nee or RAH-mah-nee) -- The language of the Rom (related
to Sanskrit and Hindi).  Romany has a huge amount of dialects because
the Rom are scattered across the world and often adopt Gaje words into
the language.  Romany is also used as an adjective for anything related
to the Rom (ex. Romany carpentry), and sometimes as a plural form of Rom
-- Romanies.

Rom Baro (ROM  BAH-ro) -- Literally "big man," the Rom Baro is the
leader of a vitsa (clan).  Though they often call themselves kings
around the Gaje, the position of Rom Baro is an elected one.  He is
usually chosen by a council of Phuri (Elders) for a combination of
cleverness, experience and wisdom.  He is advised by the Phuri Dae
(FOO-ree  DI-ee), or Wise Woman, who is a matron, spiritual advisor and
accountant (collecting all the money earned and doling it out when
needed) to the vitsa.  The Rom Baro makes the big decisions after being
advised by her and the other Phuri and serves as a representative of his
vitsa when dealing with both the Gaje and Rom of other clans.

Vardo (VAHR-doe) (or Vurdon) -- The brightly painted and elaborately
carved wagon around which Gypsy life traditionally centers.  They serve
as both transportation and home.  Pulled by one or two horses depending
on size, they vary greatly in form and style from place to place.  (They
weren't actually in common use in the 16th century, but we ignore that,
especially since there are so many vardos on so many faire sites,
including our own, that are used as booths -- a good bit opportunity).

Wuzho (WOO-zhoh) -- "Pure and untainted," the opposite of mahrim.
Certain creatures are revered as wuzho, including hedgehogs, horses and
all scavengers (who are honored for recycling that which has died), as
well as some people, including most Rom.

The Romany Social System
(Something You Should Be Familiar With)

The Familia (fa-MEEL-yah), the basic unit of Romany society, is made up
of a married couple, their unmarried sons and daughters, their married
sons and their wives and children (a woman joins the familia of her
husband when she marries).  Several related familii make up the Vitsa
(VEET-sah), or "Clan."  Vitsi vary greatly in size and traditions, but
one's connection to the vitsa (which literally means "vine" in Romany)
is the most important social tie that any Gypsy has.  Most traveling
vitsii follow a circuit from town to town that may take a year or more
to complete, and almost all stop traveling for the winter, whiling away
the time by building and repairing vardos, making crafts to sell to the
Gaje, etc.  Several vitsi in turn form the Kumpania (koom-pa-NEE-yah),
or "Tribe."  A kumpania is a loose federation of related vitsi that
coexist within a region.  The relationship one has to it is mostly a
social and political one.  The whole kumpania winters together when
times are bountiful and during the rest of the year convenes when
necessary, especially for a kris, or Romany law court.  Finally, several
kumpanii together compose the Natsia (nat-SEE-ah), or "Nation."  A
natsia is made up of several thousand Rom who derive (supposedly) from a
common ancestor.  There are many natsii across the world, but the four
largest and most influential are the Kalderash, Lowara, Machwaya and
Tsurara.  All of this talk about family is a good segue into...

Family Terms

Bibio (BEE-bee-oh) -- Aunt
Bori (BORE-ee) -- Literally "bride," used to mean sister-in-law or daughter-in-law
chav -- A term of endearment for children
Chikni (CHEEK-nee) -- Son
Chikno (CHEEK-no) -- Daughter
Dadro (DAH-dro) -- Father
Dai (DIE) -- Mother
Kako (KAH-koh) -- Uncle.  It is also a respectful form of address for any older man
Monisha (ma-NEE-sha) -- Wife. Also, more loosely, girlfriend
Palesko (pal-ESS-ko) -- Nephew
Penyaki (pen-YAWK-ee) -- Niece
Phei (FAY) -- Sister
Prala (PRAH-lah) -- Brother
Puridaia (poor-ee-DIE-uh) -- Grandmother
Purodad (POOR-uh-dod) -- Grandfather
Sackra (SACK-ruh) -- Mother-in-law
Simensa (see-MEN-suh) -- Cousin (both genders)
Zhamutro (zha-moo-TRO) -- Literally "groom," used to mean brother-in-law
or son-in-law

Folki (People)

Baba -- A term of respect for an old woman, used before her name (ex. Baba Yaga)
baro moy -- "big mouth," a gossip
bor -- friend
chavi (CHA-vee) -- a Gypsy girl
chavo (CHA-vo) -- a Gypsy boy
dilo (DEE-lo) -- a fool or imbecile (a favorite word for the Gaje!)
Drabarni (dra-BAR-nee) -- A Romni herbalist and fortuneteller
glata (GLAH-ta) -- children
joovi (JOO-vee) -- woman (in general)
moosh -- man (in general)
Phuro (FOO-roh) (pl. Phuri) -- A wise and respected elder, used before his or her name
Rai -- "Sir," a term of great respect usually reserved for great rulers and Phuri
Rani (RAH-nee) -- "Lady," same as Rai.
Rom -- A married Gypsy man (unmarried men are either still called chavo or are called Romoro -- "not quite a man)
Romni (ROM-nee) -- A married Gypsy woman (unmarried women are still called chavi)
Ves'tacha (VESS TAH-cha) -- "Beloved," a term of great affection

Jek (ZHECK) -- 1
Dui (DWEE) -- 2
Trin -- 3
Shtar -- 4
Panj -- 5
Shov -- 6
Efta -- 7
Otor -- 8
Enija (ah-NEE-ja) -- 9
Desh -- 10

Commands, Exclamations and Questions

Av akai (AHV ah-KIE) -- "Come here"
Baksheesh! (bok-SHEESH) -- "Good Fortune!" -- A blessing and toast
'Chavaia (cha-VIE-ah) -- "Stop"
Gestena (gess-TEN-ah) -- "Thank you"
Hush kacker! (HOOSH KOK-er) -- "Shut up and listen!"
Latcho Drom! (LAH-cho DROHM) -- "Good Journey/Road!" -- The traditional Romany farewell
Misto! (MEESE-toe) -- "Wondrous!" -- An exclamation of joy equivalent to our "Cool!"
Nash avri! (nosh ah-VREE) -- "Go away!"
Sar'shan? (sar'SHAWN) -- "How are you?" -- The most common greeting between related Rom
Sastimos! (sass-TEE-mose) -- "Good Health!" -- Both a greeting and a toast
Shesti! (SHES-tee) -- "Nonsense!"
Si tut bocklo? (SEE TOOT bock-LO) -- "Are you hungry?"

Miscellaneous Useful Words

adoi (ah-DOY) -- there
akai (ah-KIE) -- here
amria (am-REE-ah) -- A curse or oath
baro (BAH-ro) -- big
bitti (BEET-ee) -- small
chor -- to steal   chorib (cha-REE-bay) -- thievery   choro -- a thief
O Del (ah DELL) -- God (as He appears in Christianity)
dhon -- very much
didlo (DEED-loh) -- crazy
diklo (DEEK-loh) -- The head scarf worn by Romni and sometimes Rom (among the Kalderash and Lowara)
dinili (dee-NEEL-ee) -- silly, stupid, foolish
Dook -- The Sight (ability to see the future) and magick in general.  To dukker is to tell fortunes.
drom -- road
foros (FOR-oss) -- fair or market
galb (GALL-bay) -- The gold coin necklace, a traditional part of Romany garb
gras -- horse
habben (HOBB-en) -- food
latcho (LAH-cho) -- good
lavuta (la-VOO-ta) -- fiddle (which the Rom introduced to Europe, by the way)
lov (LOW-vay) -- money
Moshto (MOSH-toe) -- God as the Rom view Him (a little different in personality from O Del)
Mulo (MOO-lo) (sing. Mul) -- Ghosts -- Rom almost never travel during the noon hour or at night out of respect and fear for these restless spirits, who like to possess people.
paramitsha (pah-rah-MEET-sha) -- Romany folk tales
patteran (PAT-ter-on) -- Romany trail signs, used to inform other Rom about an area
rinkini (rin-KEE-nee) -- beautiful
Romaniya (ro-mah-NEE-yah) -- Gypsy laws and traditions, the Romany legal code
tarno (TAR-no) -- young
tatcho (TATCH-oh) -- real, true -- often asked as a question.

Further Reading
(If You So Choose)

Cotton, Rena.  Russian Gypsy Tales.
Fonseca, Isabel. Bury Me Standing: The Gypsies and Their Journey. (An EXCELLENT book that allows a very rare personal glimpse at the Rom. Full of history, modern Romany life and other useful information).

Hancock, Ian.  The Pariah Syndrome: An Account of Gypsy Slavery and
Persecution. (A great book by a Texan Rom who taught at UT and is now the Romany representative in the United Nations!)

Tong, Diane. Gypsy Folk Tales.  (A wonderful collection of tales that we draw most of our stories for our Gypsy Extravaganza show from)

Wood, Manfri Frederick.  In the Life of a Romany Gypsy.  (In my opinion the best book on the subject, an autobiography of a traditional Welsh Rom)

Yoors, Jan.  The Gypsies. And the collected journals of the Gypsy Lore Society

Suggested Music

Muzsikas, The Prisoner's Song. A great selection of Hungarian songs
about imprisonment and exile with HEAVY Romany influence.

The soundtrack to Latcho Drom. An import in the US, but you'll never
find more authentic music! And I seem to see it in every music store these days, so it won't be hard to find...

Taraf de Haidouks. Made up of three generations of Romany musicians. Their self-titled US      debut is great.

Also, the Internet is full of Romany web sites!  Some of the best include:

Our site -- of course! <grin>:

The Patrin -- a wonderful site!:

a Romany news site:

and an online Romany dictionary covering a variety of dialects:

There is also a useful list of Rom-related links at:

Lacho Drom!
-- Matthew Duvall
Director of the Vitsa of the Fiery Dawn, the Gypsies of Scarborough
Faire, the Renaissance Festival
AKA Nikolai Wispersteppe Borodin, Gypsy King

Member Since: July 2014
Positions Held: Founding Member, Coldoon since July 2014

Re: Gypsy Terms 2

Post by Ahnica on Wed Oct 08, 2014 6:53 pm


Coldoon of the Gilded Thorn
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