Romany (or Romani) is the language of the Roma and Sinti, travelling peoples often referred to in English as "gypsies" and in the East and Central Europe known as tsigane.
They came originally from northern India and parts of Pakistan, and their language belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language group.
Analysis of the Romany language has shown that it is closely related to those spoken in northern India, in particular Hindi and Punjabi. This language relationship is believed to indicate the Roma's and Sinti's true geographical origin. Loanwords in Romany make it possible to trace the pattern of their migration west.
Romany, Punjabi, and Pothohari share some identical words and grammar systems. However, one recent theory reported in Nature suggests that Romany is most closely related to Sinhala (Gray and Atkinson, 2003).
The Romany language is rather a collection of related languages that comprise all the members of a single genetic subgroup. Because variants of the language are only now in the process of being codified in those countries with high Roma populations (for example, Slovakia), these variants are sometimes classified as dialects.
Romany loanwords in English
Romany has loaned many words to English, including posh, pal, and lollipop. These mostly turn up in slang—such as gadgie, shiv ("knife"), or cooshtie — and in regional dialects, such as radge and jougal in south east Scotland and parni and bewer in West Yorkshire in England. Urban British slang shows an increasing level of Romany influence, with some words becoming accepted into the lexicon of standard English (for example, chav from Anglo-Romany charvy meaning either "baby" or "mate" depending on context). The abandonment of their traditional nomadic lifestyle by many gypsies, largely due to government policy over the last 30 years, is likely to be the motor for this process.
Romany has also picked up many words from various languages in its travels across Europe and Asia.