Roma, Romany, Romani

The Roma, or Romani (also spelled Romany) are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group, who live mostly in Europe; branches of the ethnic group live in the Americas, Asia and North Africa. They are often called Gypsies (or Gipsies) but that term has negative connotations of illegal activity and many Roma don’t identify with it. They are also known as Gitanos in Spain and Travellers in Scandinavia and Ireland. The group includes many branches and subgroups, including the Iberian Kale in Spain and Portugal; the Finnish Kale in Finland; the Welsh Kale in Wales; the Romanichal in the United Kingdom; the Sinti in Central Europe; and the Manouche (or Manush) or Gitan in France; and the Romanisæl in Sweden and Norway. Romany (with a y) usually refers specifically to Romanichals, the native Romani subgroup in England.

Mounting evidence — genetic as well as linguistic — suggests that the Roma originate from northern India. Many of the words and grammatical rules of the Romani language are similar to those of the Hindi language.

The Roma were among the groups singled out for persecution on so-called racial grounds by the Nazis before and during World War II, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. They continue to face discrimination in Europe and other parts of the world.


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