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I am trying to research the word Gype or I think it is spelt that way. I have heard it to describe people. "Oh he's a bit of a Gype/Gyp" meaning he is a bit of a Gypsey. The phrase is meant to suggest a dishonest or dirty character.

In Irish it means stupid, and I think in Welsh it means Gypsey. I am from North Yorkshire, but first heard the saying in the East Riding where is also meant Gypsey.

Has anyone else heard it and can you confirm what it means please?

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    Did you do any research on this question before asking? The top search results for "gyp definition" and "gyp etymology" completely answer your entire question. – Nick2253 Dec 3 '14 at 16:21
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    @Andrew, that question refers to the verb "to gyp" (or "jip"), but Jack is asking about the noun. I've personally never encountered "gyp" as a noun before, but etymoline does say it's been used here in the US to mean "a swindle" (which is a third distinct gloss from the two OP quotes). – Dan Bron Dec 3 '14 at 16:36
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    Gyp and gippo are commonly used as nouns. But I deliberately referenced the question rather than close as a duplicate of that. – Andrew Leach Dec 3 '14 at 16:46
  • @AndrewLeach I have never heard gyp used as a noun in Britain, though concur that gyppo is a common slang term for a gypsy. There are plenty of other terms many of which are considered very offensive. 'To gyp' about something means to complain, or moan. I had never previously associated it with gypsy. – WS2 Dec 3 '14 at 17:57
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This first edition of OED includes the noun sense of 'gyp' as

2. U.S. slang. A thief.
1889 in Century Dict.

but makes no mention of any relation to gipsy/gypsy (or anything else).

Later editions include a 3rd sense of 'gyp'

3. A fraudulent action; a swindle. Also as adj. Cf. gyp v. orig. U.S.

gyp, v. orig. U.S.
To cheat, trick, swindle.
1889 in Cent. Dict.

And so to the Century Dictionary

Gipsy, Gypsy (abbreviated a lot) [...] They pursue various nomadic occupations, being tinkers, basket-makers, fortune-tellers, dealers in horses, etc., are often expert musicians, and are credited with with thievish propensities. [...]

Which I think rather sets the tone, for the introduction of gyp.

gyp (jip). n. [In the first sense said to be a sportive application of the Greek [greek letters omitted] for vulture, with ref. to their supposed dishonest rapacity; but prob. in this, as in the second sense, an abbr. of gypsy, gypsy as applied to a sly, unscrupulous fellow]
1. A male servant who attends to college rooms. (the OED agrees with this citing "1805 H. K. WHITE in Rem. (1819) I. 209 My bed-maker, whom we call a gyp, from a Greek word signifying a vulture, runs away with everything he can lay his hands on." however Grose 1881 Dictionary has the same sense but derived from wolf)
2. A swindler, especially a swindling horse-dealer; a cheat. Philadelphia Times, May 27 1880. [Slang.]

It might be worth noting that The Century Dictionary mentions gipsery/gipsyry as

A colony of Gipsies; a place of encampment for Gipsies.
Near the city [Philadelphia] are three different gipseries where in summer-time the wagon and the tent may be found. C.G. Leland, The Gypsies.

I don't think Philadelphia is currently a major concentration of Romani/Gypsy but the timing of the documentation of gyp to mean thief, swindler coincides quite neatly with the abolition of Romani slavery in Romania (1864) and the subsequent immigration of Romani peoples to West Europe and the east coast of the USA.

So while The Century Dictionary doesn't explicitly say gyp is definitely derived from gipsy, it does all look like it's pointing that way unless one were to imagine that Philadelphians of the time were acutely aware of the goings on in British universities.

I would think, in general, that most people will assume gyp is derived from gipsy and is therefore a pejorative, racial slur. Whether it is true or not doesn't really matter; once the majority hold that view then it does become a slur, whether that was the original meaning or not. So it can then be used in the way you describe; to say to someone "You're a gyp" means "You're like a gipsy" (using gipsy to mean a type of person you dislike).

The modern chav could also be racial slur should enough people take up the belief that it is from Romany chavi, chavo.


Gype (in Irish and Scottish) meaning a fool. Nothing to do with gipsy at all.

Joseph Wright's The English Dialect Dictionary gives

GYPE, V. and sb. Sc. Irel. Also written gipe Dmf.;guipe Ant.
1. v. To stare foolishly ; to act as a fool.
2. sb. A foolish stare. Enff.
3. A fool, lout ; an awkward, stupid fellow.

Gype seems pretty close to two other Irish/Scottish words which mean the same thing: Gaup and Gawp.

5. sb. A vacant, staring person, a fool, simpleton ; also in pi. form.
6. A stupid, vacant stare ; a wild, anxious look

And those two give Gaupsheet and Gawpshite respectively (Gobshite).

In The Century Dictionary Gipe, Gype means a petticoat, a skirt. An upper frock or cassock

In OED it is given as a tunic (Obs.).


And finally, Pikey.

The Century Dictionary gives (because it doesn't have pikey at all)

piker, n. [pike3 + -er] A tramp; a vagrant. [Slang]
The people called in Acts of Parliament sturdy beggars and vagrants, in the old cant language Abraham men, and in the modern Pikers. Borrow, Wordbook of the English Gypsy Language.

The pike3 is turnpike

OED on Abraham-man (wandering but not specifically Romani/Gipsy)

One of ‘a set of vagabonds, who wandered about the country, soon after the dissolution of the religious houses; the provision of the poor in those places being cut off, and no other substituted.’

OED does have pikey and various definitions of piker.

pikey dial. or slang = PIKER3
1847 J. O. HALLIWELL Dict. Archaic & Provinc. Words 623/2 Piky, a gipsey. Kent.
1874 HOTTEN Slang Dict. 253 Pikey, a tramp or gipsy.
1887 PARISH & SHAW Dict. Kentish Dial. 116 Piky,‥a turnpike traveller; a vagabond; and so generally a low fellow.
1955 P. WILDEBLOOD Against Law 125 My family's all Pikeys, but we ain't on the road no more!

piker3 repeats the 1874 citation from Borrow that is in The Century Dictionary but predates it with

1838 HOLLOWAY Dict. Provinc. 23/2 Cadgers and pikers are tramps. E. Suss.

piker1 is the earliest sense (from 1301), prior to the word gipsy/gypsy/romani/romany, but comes from pick not pike/turnpike.

†1. A robber, a thief; in later use, a petty thief, pilferer;

but by the mid 1500's this had been replaced by picker which we still use in pick-pocket.

Wikipedia does quite a good write-up on pikey at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pikey but the section about the Medieval Period is almost certainly confusing pykeris with pickers and the 16th Century section is based entirely on Partridge Dictionary of Slang which merely states that pikey derives from C.16 pike: to depart without providing any evidence (although it seems sensible enough, pike was used in that sense from 1400-now, that pikey isn't attested to until 1847 seems a bit of a leap of faith).

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I have heard the expression "I was gypped" which meant that the person was cheated and/or ripped off. After hearing from a person of Romany descent, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romani_people) I learned that this is deeply offensive as its based on the term gypsy and its use perpetuates the negative stereotype that gypsies are dishonest.

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I was brought up near York & have heard "Gype " meaning a bit of a slob/dodgey character.

"Its gypee" means cheap/nasty looking & "I've been gyped" means done out of/swindled a lot. They were normal conversation in/aroundway my village in 70-90's. I've been abroad for 17 yrs & still use these words but only round certain company.

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Gyp in southern Appalachia, USA has two meanings: 1. To cheat or swindle; "That man gypped (jipped) me out of $10 dollars." 2. A female dog old enough to breed but not bred yet: "I have a young gyp hound for sale."

  • Can you provide any reference for the second meaning? Your first is already explained at length in Frank's answer. – Helmar Oct 4 '16 at 19:53
  • I don't see this really answering the question. The question is about "gyp" (noun). In this answer, "gyp" (sense 1) is a verb and "gyp" (sense 2) is an adjective. – MetaEd Oct 4 '16 at 21:13

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