Gypsy (n.)

also gipsy, c. 1600, alteration of gypcian, a worn-down Middle English dialectal form of egypcien "Egyptian," from the supposed origin of the people. As an adjective, from 1620s. Compare British gippy (1889) a modern shortened colloquial form of Egyptian.

Cognate with Spanish Gitano and close in sense to Turkish and Arabic Kipti "gypsy," literally "Coptic;" but in Middle French they were Bohémien (see bohemian), and in Spanish also Flamenco "from Flanders." "The gipsies seem doomed to be associated with countries with which they have nothing to do" [Weekley]. Zingari, the Italian and German name, is of unknown origin. Romany is from the people's own language, a plural adjective form of rom "man." Gipsy was the preferred spelling in England. The name is also in extended use applied to "a person exhibiting any of the qualities attributed to Gipsies, as darkness of complexion, trickery in trade, arts of cajolery, and, especially as applied to a young woman, playful freedom or innocent roguishness of action or manner" [Century Dictionary]. As an adjective from 1620s with a sense "unconventional; outdoor."

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attested from 1840 as an abbreviation of gipsy (also see gypsy). Also see gyp. Related: Gipped; gipping.

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alternative spelling of Gypsy. OED gives it precedence, and it is the main form for the word's entry in Century Dictionary, but Fowler writes that "the first y is highly significant, reminding us that Gypsy means Egyptian ...."

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Gitano (n.)

"gypsy," 1834, from Spanish Gitano (fem. Gitana), from Vulgar Latin *Ægyptanus "Egyptian" (see Gypsy). The fem. is gitana. The French form of the feminine, gitane, was used as the name of a brand of cigarettes (1933) and has come to be used for French cigarettes generally.

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flamenco (n.)

1882, from Spanish flamenco, first used of Gypsy dancing in Andalusia. The word in Spanish meant "a Fleming, native of Flanders" (Dutch Vlaming) and also "flamingo." Speculations are varied and colorful about the connection between the bird, the people, and the gypsy dance of Andalusia.

Spain ruled Flanders for many years in 16c., and King Carlos I brought with him to Madrid an entire Flemish court. One etymology suggests the dance was so called from the bright costumes and energetic movements, which the Spanish associated with Flanders; another is that Spaniards, especially Andalusians, like to name things by their opposites, and because the Flemish were tall and blond and the gypsies short and dark, the gypsies were called "Flemish;" others hold that flamenco was the general Spanish word for all foreigners, gypsies included; or that Flemish noblemen, bored with court life, took to slumming among the gypsies. Compare Gypsy.

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gyp (v.)

also gip, "to cheat, swindle," 1889, American English, traditionally derived from Gypsy (n.). Gyp/gip/jip is attested from 1794 as university slang for a servant that waited on students in their halls. This is said to have been especially a Cambridge word, and a story told there derived it from Greek gyps "vulture," in reference to thievish habits of the servants.

As a noun, "fraudulent action, a cheat," by 1914. Gypsy's abbreviated form Gip, Gyp is attested from 1840. Gypping or gipping was a term late 19c. among horse dealers for tricks such as painting the animal's gray hairs brown, puffing the gums, etc. Related: Gypped.

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Romany (n.)

"a Gypsy; the Gypsy language," 1812, romani, fem. of romano (adj.) "Gypsy," from rom, the Romany word for "man, husband, male, Gypsy" (plural roma), from Sanskrit domba-s ("with initial cerebral d, which confuses with r" [Klein]) "male member of a low caste of musicians."

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"male Gypsy," 1841, see Romany.

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bloke (n.)

"fellow," 1851, also bloak, London slang, of unknown origin, perhaps from Celtic ploc "large, stubborn person;" another suggestion is Romany (Gypsy) and Hindi loke "a man."

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cove (n.2)

"man, person, fellow, chap," canting slang from at least 1560s, said to be from Romany (Gypsy) cova "a thing," covo "that man" [Barrère and Leland].

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