The etymology of the word gypsy is interesting. Webster 1913 touches upon the fact that it's derived from "Egyptian" but doesn't really explain further. When the first Romany peoples crossed the English channel and arrived in England some 500 years ago, they found themselves in a nation which was just beginning to flex its nautical muscles. English explorers had begun sailing out around the world, and, at a loss to explain where these dark-skinned travellers had come from, decided that they resembled the people of Egypt.

The word Egyptian gradually became corrupted to Gypsy, and as England moved further away from a feudal, rural society towards a capitalist, city-based one, the Romany lifestyle came to be considered a subversive threat. The status of the Romany dropped from that of travelling folk who could provide a useful service and they became labelled as beggars and thieves. For a long time the words gypsy and Egyptian were interchangeable, and in fact in the 18th Century a law was passed in Britain making it illegal to "impersonate an Egyptian".