What is the Difference Between Gypsy and Nomad

The main difference between Gypsy and Nomad is that Gypsy is a part of an ethnic group that originated in Northern India and currently living mostly in America and Europe, while Nomad belongs to a community of travelers who move from one location to another from time to time.

It’s important to note that Gypsies can be Nomads. However, not all the Nomads are Gypsies. In brief, Gypsy refers to an ethnic group, while Nomad refers to a community. However, there are socio-economic and cultural variations distinct among Gypsies and Nomads.

Key Areas Covered

1. Who is a Gypsy
   – Definition, History, People
2. Who is a Nomad
     – Definition, People
3. Similarities Between Gypsy and Nomad
     – Outline of Common Characteristics
4. Difference Between Gypsy and Nomad
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Gypsy, NomadsDifference Between Gypsy and Nomad - Comparison Summary

Who is a Gypsy

Gypsies are an ethnic group who migrated to Europe years back. They are members of people originating in South Asia, typically North India, and traditionally behave as nomads. Today, we consider them as one of the largest ethnic minorities living in Europe.

Gypsy communities have a rich oral tradition, and there are strong family bonds within the community.  Although considered exotic and bizarre, Gypsy communities were ethnically harassed within Europe for centuries. The prevailing social image of Gypsy is that they are shrewd, mysterious outsiders; we mainly associate them with fortune-telling, magic and supernatural elements.

Who is a Gypsy

Most Gypsy communities used to have a nomadic lifestyle in the past as a matter of survival. However, the majority of modern Gypsy communities are established in permanent settlements. Moreover, Gypsies do not welcome marriages outside their communities. Customarily, parents arrange the marriages; the parents of the groom usually do the matchmaking. Many Gypsy couples marry in their mid-teens, whereas single youngsters, whether male or female, do not get the opportunity to socialize alone together as they highly believe a girl should protect her chastity.

Who is a Nomad

Nomads are the communities who travel from one place to another without settling down permanently in a specific location. In brief, many cultures have traditionally been nomadic and are still adapting themselves to nomadic ways.

Within a nomadic community, the belief is that they all descend from a common ancestor. Consequently, they tend to maintain tight bonds of family loyalty, which are tested and reaffirmed during financial crises or during disputes with outsiders from family or community.

Gypsy vs Nomad

The facets of nomadic culture and society are designed in accordance with their constant migration. Similar to the plight of the Gypsies, nomads are also considered “outsiders” who are “wandering” by mainstream society. When it comes to the nomadic herdsmen, they engage in seasonal migrations over fixed routes traveling between established grazing lands and water bodies. However, during the migrations, nomads, as well as their herds, have to face many hardships like climatic changes and disease. Any significant loss of animals is disastrous as the Nomads’ survival highly depend on the well-being of their herd. Furthermore, the constant migrations where they have to face sedentary opponents, as well as the need to defend the herds, have shaped the Nomads into warriors with good horsemanship and archery skills.

Similarities Between Gypsy and Nomad

  1. Gypsies can be nomads. However, all Gypsies are not Nomads.
  2. Both Gypsies and Nomads show low literacy rates. This is basically a result of their nomadic lifestyle.
  3. Both Gypsies and Nomads stand as outsiders to the mainstream society and culture.
  4. Teen marriages are accepted within both cultures.

Difference Between Gypsy and Nomad


Gypsy is a part of an ethnic group that originated in Northern India, while Nomad refers to a community of travellers who move from one place to another from time to time.

Social Perception

The social perception is that the Nomads are herdsmen and great warriors while we associate Gypsies with fortune-telling, magic and supernatural elements.


Romani is the language spoken by the majority of the Gypsy communities. However, the language of one Nomad community varies from another.


Nomads have no permanent settlements. They roam from one place to another. They usually have a herd of cattle that they move around with themselves. However, not all the Gypsies are Nomadic in their way of living. Some Gypsies communities live in permanent settlements.


In brief, the main difference between Gypsy and Nomad is that Gypsy is a part of a specific ethnic group, while Nomad is a community of travelers who move from one place to another from time to time. However, both Gypsy and Nomad communities possess similar socio-cultural elements, which make them stand out from the mainstream socio-cultural code.


1. “Culture and History.” National Federation Of Gypsy Liaison Groups.
2. “Nomads in Eastern Central Asia.” Nomadic Culture | Silk Roads Programme.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Dancers-gypsy-active-young-costume-1054002” (CC0) via Pixabay
2. “Oman 2010 wahiba sands nomads” By D7031tg – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia



About the Author: Anuradha

Anuradha has a BA degree in English, French, and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Master's degree in Teaching English Literature in a Second Language Context. Her areas of interests include Arts and Literature, Language and Education, Nature and Animals, Cultures and Civilizations, Food, and Fashion.

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