The Romani people is made up of several million people who live in dozens of countries, especially in Europe and America, where they have settled over the last millennium. The Roma originated from the northern and central regions of the Indian subcontinent, according to historical and linguistic studies by academics. The ancestors of today’s Roma would left India before 900 AD, likely not in a single migratory wave that diversified later, but in several waves made up by related, but already linguistically differentiated groups, in India itself.
The Roma people have suffered economic, political, social, and cultural discrimination in virtually all the countries where they have lived, whose authorities have generally passed anti-Roma laws and have allowed, if not encouraged, discriminatory attitudes against them. The climax of such persecution took place between 1935 and 1945, when Nazi Germany carried out the genocide known as Porajmos, in which several hundred thousand Roma were exterminated.
Specially from the 1970s onwards, several international Roma organisations have insisted on the need to put an end to this discrimination, and to recognise and respect the rights of the Roma people.
The terms “Roma” or “Romani” are used with different meanings depending on the country, the specific Roma organisation, or even the academic that uses them.
On the one hand, “Roma” —or, more traditionally, “Gypsy”— is used to refer to three major groups of people: the Roma proper —mainly found in Europe and the Americas—, the Loms, and the Doms —the latter two being concentrated mainly in the Middle East and the Caucasus.
On the other hand, however, some members of each of these three main branches reject any overarching label, and prefer to be recognised instead exclusively as Rom, Lom, or Dom —or even some other more specific denomination.
The Roma speak a variety of languages. It is estimated that between 3 and 4 million of European Roma speak Romani, a language spoken in communities in much of the continent. Romani has several dialects which, according to some linguists, can be classified as independent languages.
European Roma who do not speak Romani use the majority languages of their countries of residence or one of the mixed languages that have emerged from contact between them and Romero, also known by linguists as Para-Romani.
Around 300,000 Doms speak Domari in several Middle Eastern countries.
A few dozen Loms maintained the use of the Lomavren language in Armenia at the beginning of the 21st century.
(Last updated November 2020.)