Gadscho (Gadžo) / Das / Gor


Gadscho (in Vlach dialects: Gadžo or Gažo), Das and Gor are the most common denominations for non-Roma and form pairs of opposites with Rom / Ḍom / L(l)om.

It is assumed that Gadžo derives from the old-Indian gārhya ("domestic") and means, besides non-Rom, also farmer, villager, head of the house and husband. It is the most used term and known also by many non-Roma. Das (in particular Balkan group [ Classification]) derives from the old-Indian Dāsa (slave) and corresponds to the Hindi denomination Dās. Gor is used in some Romani variants of the central group (e.g.: Vend Roma).

Besides these main forms there are a number of further synonyms with regional meanings. The Bosnian Gurbet and the Sepečides who principally live in Turkey, for example, know the term Gomi. The Sinti and the Finnish Mustalainan also name the non-Roma haxo, which means something similar to "mentally limited". Also the Sepečides know the term haxo(s) and attribute to it the same meaning, but do not use it for non-Roma.

Except for some few exceptions, the religion, the nationality and the ethnic affiliation of the non-Roma is not reflected in the denominations. It can be assumed that due to their similar history of persecution the Jewish population is not assigned to the pejorative category Gadžo, Das or Gor. Židovo, Džido, Dschido or Čifuti ("circumcised people") are the most commonly used denominations for a Jew. In some Muslim Balkan groups it is also usual to distinguish between Gadžo and Das. In the context of Kosovo groups Gadžo is used for Albanians and other non-Roma whereas Das means Serbian. The Sepečides name the Greek Balamno, the Turk Xoraxaj, all other non-Roma Gadže or Gomi. For Vlach groups like the Lovara and the KalderašXoraxaj means Turk or Muslim. [Index]

Socio-cultural background information

As has already been mentioned all denominations for non-Roma include a pejorative component. This is indicated by the commonly used idiomatic expressions of the Sepečides:

Katar ko gadžo dovruzluki na n'avela.
"A Gadžo never says something true."
O gadžo xala les ki koč.
"The Gadžo eats it (the bread) kneeling." (Note: "To eat the bread on one’s knees" means to misuse the confidence of a friend, "to be dishonourable like a cat that carries its food to a hidden place.")

This strict polarisation into "us" and the "others" is primarily linked to the history of persecution of the Roma, but also corresponds to their dualistic philosophy of life to split all things into pairs of opposites (devel - beng / mahrime - žužo etc.). The ethnic identity of the Roma is based on this differentiation. A number of taboos and norms separates the different social and cultural fields from each other and protects the fields from being invaded. If one takes a look at the Roma’s history it does not surprise that these borders have become insuperable in the course of the time.

The borders, however, have become insuperable only towards one direction: a Gadžo can never become a "real" Rom. A non-Rom who speaks Romani and who follows the traditions, who has been accepted within the society and according to his understanding thinks of himself as a Rom, is considered a Rom to a lower extent than an assimilated Rom who does not speak Romani. To be a Rom is classified as right of birth, to become a Gadžo on the other hand can be learnt. Due to this pejorative meaning of the term Gadžo the Roma, when talking to Romani-competent non-Roma use the neutral term Manusch (person), when talking about non-Roma and in particular when talking about the husband or the wife of the opposite.

The mostly negative image of the non-Roma is expressed in a very clear way, especially in literature and within the oral narrative tradition of the Roma. It is a mistrusting, mocking or a despicable and partly contemptuous view on the non-Roma. At the same time solidarity with those groups that are living in similarly difficult conditions and have had similar experiences with the majority population (e.g. the Jews) is expressed. The values of the non-Roma are mainly referred to as always recurring accusations that are expressed in all literary genres. According to these accusations the non-Roma would only care for accumulating possession and for getting always richer and richer and they would consciously accept a "mental impoverishment". In the opinion of the Roma, this kind of "blinkered thinking" hinders their view on the essential. If the non-Roma express their interest in the Roma such a behaviour is mostly considered hypocritical and exclusively oriented towards their personal advantages. The narrow-minded, unworldly and basically dull Gadžo is confronted with the intelligent, nature-related and true-to-life Rom. In many Roma tails the hero makes use of this naivety of the non-Roma, which is considered as caused by themselves, and demonstrates his superiority in a mocking way.

The Belgian non-Rom, Jan Yoors, who grew up in the Lovara community, points out that the knowledge about the prejudices of the non-Roma has been used as method to cheat the non-Roma. He relates a story that happened when women entered a shop, consciously scratching their body and immediately afterwards touching the food, so that the owner of the shop preferred to give the food to the women. The shop-owner’s fear of infectious illness was stronger than his business interests.


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Heinschink, Mozes F. (2002) Unpublished interview with Fatma Heinschink (Sepečides). Wien.
Phonogrammarchiv, Austrian Academy of Sciences: Heinschink Collection: RT 379 (Sepečides) .


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Image Printable version
Image Kamesas te aves gažo? – Would you like to be a gadžo?
Image So šaj le gaže sićon katar le Rom? – What can the Gadže learn from the Roma?
Palmist (Walbersdorf [Bgld.]/Austria), 1931