Tbh, there are other problems with the use of that term in English specifically that I can only hope don't exist in Spanish. The image of the "gypsy" originated in Romaniticism
since Romani people were seen as a part of the rural life that was disappearing as a result of the Industrial Revolution and urbanization. They were seen not only as thieves, fortune-tellers, wanderers, kidnappers of children (which is particularly odd), etc. but as carefree, happy people utterly untouched by civilization and free to do as they wished. In reality, this is entirely an imaginary concept, completely at odds with what Romani people themselves experienced. Some people use "gypsy" to refer specifically to this imaginary image and "Romani" to refer to the actual ethnicity. In English, in any case, "Romani" is a term that is attested in the literature since at least the nineteenth century (though with various spellings), not a neologism by any means.
I think I can understand. The romantic view of Roma people is described in Spanish with the word cíngaro
. According to the Accademy, cíngaro and gitano mean the same thing, but their connotation is actually different. You wouldn't ever hear cíngaro
today used for anything else than the 19th century legend characters.
(I guess this is the kind of image portrayed in the song Gypsy
by Shakira, isn't it? It got sold in Spain in its Spanish version Gitana
, but I remember it as particularly puzzling, since the lyrics didn't fit what we understand today under the word gitana
, which just means a Roma woman and nobody really thinks of the romantic image anymore when hearing that word).
I said before that Roma people would never use romaní
in Spanish to describe themselves, but I remembered a neutral word for them that is never used derogatorily: calé
. It is not as frequent as gitano
(not even among them), but it is quite well-known.