Gypsy, member of a nomadic people of Europe, Asia, and North America. Gypsies are believed to have originated in India; their language, Romany, is related to Sanskrit and Prakrit. They probably began their westward migration about A.D. 1000. By the 15th century they had penetrated the Balkans, Egypt, and North Africa. In the 16th century they were to be found throughout Europe. In World War II a half-million European gypsies were executed by the Nazis. There is a strong gypsy tradition of folklore, legend, and song, and this, combined with the independence of their lives, has inspired the romantic imagination of many musicians, artists, and writers.