Romany (Gypsy) Names

by Arval Benicoeur (Josh Mittleman) and the Academy of Saint Gabriel

© 1998, 2002, 2007 by Josh Mittleman; all rights reserved.

Last modified 22 August 2007

We have found very little information about period Romany names. What we've discovered boils down to this: The Romany used at least two names each -- a private name in their own language that was not used outside their community, and a public name in the language of the country where they lived. We have found no evidence at all on Romany private names. We have found a little evidence about their public names, which seem to be typical of the country where they are found. Therefore, the best general advice we can give you is that in public a Romany man or woman would have used a normal name for the time and place where he or she lived [1].

We have found a few examples of Romany names in 16th century Lowland Scotland. There was a group in Aberdeen in 1541, described as "Egyptians", apparently living separately from the community. Four of their names are recorded [2]:

The given names are entirely typical for this part of Scotland. The surnames are a little unusual. Faw or Faa, an ethnic term for Gypsies in the north of England, was a common surname among border Gypsies [3,4], and neither Andree and Baptista is recorded elsewhere in our Scottish name references, so they may have been typical of Gypsy families.

Another source reports:

Other researchers have reported a few scattered period examples of names used by Rom. A man called Emaus "from Egypt" is recorded arriving in Kronstadt, in Transylvania, in 1416, with 220 followers. Master Andreas, the Prince of Little Egypt came to Deventer in Holland in 1420 with his followers. Andrea, Duke of Egypt reached Bologna in 1422. In the same year, a large party led by Michael arrived at Basel [5]. These names are all unremarkable for the times and places.

The Romany reached Europe in the Middle Ages and spread slowly across the continent, arriving in some western countries in the 14th or 15th century. period. You can find a timeline of Romany history on the web [6]; it will give you the basic parameters for developing your persona. Other html information on Romany culture can be found in two articles -- here and here -- in Stefan's Florilegium, including some more dates on the spread of the Romany through Europe and references to some books on Romany history.

As we learn more about pre-1600 Romany names, we'll add to this article.


[1] Barbara Jean Kuehl, newsgroup posting in Stefan's Florilegium: Gypsy Culture. She cites Jean-Paul Clebert, The Gypsies (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967).

[2] The manuscript Aberdeen Council Registers, Volumes 8 - 20 (1501-1551), in the Aberdeen City Archives.

[3] Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Faw (Oxford University Press, 2007),

[4] Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning and History, (New York: The New York Public Library, 1986), s.nn. Faa, Wark.

[5] Megan ni Laine, newsgroup posting in Stefan's Florilegium: Gypsy Culture. She cites Jerzy Ficowski, The Gypsies in Poland: History and Customs (Warsaw: Interpress Publishers, 1989).

[6] The Patrin Journal, timeline of Gypsy history.

[7] Angus Fraser, The Gypsies (Blackwell Publishers Ltd., 1992), p.114.