from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A secret jargon used by traditionally itinerant people in Great Britain and Ireland, based on systematic inversion or alteration of the initial consonants of Gaelic words. Also called Cant, Gammon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. A cant used by members of the Travelling Community, based on older versions of the Irish language with modern English influences.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

From Shelta Sheldrū, perhaps alteration of Irish Gaelic béarla, language, English, from Old Irish bélrae, language, from bél, mouth.


  • Some travelling communities, particularly in Ireland but also in parts of Britain, use a language called Shelta, which is more widely known as the Cant. - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • They maintain their own traditions and language (known as Shelta and derived from Irish Gaelic). "

    'Seriously Prejudiced'

  • Rootless etymologists think it is probably from the Shelta language of itinerants in Ireland; monicker began there as munnik, derived from the Gaelic ainm, in turn taken from the Greek no-men, meaning “name.”

    No Uncertain Terms

  • But, as I said before, I learn languages with _incredible_ difficulty, a fact which I cannot reconcile with the extreme interest which I take in philology and linguistics, and the discoveries which I have made; as, for instance, that of _Shelta_ in England, or my labours in jargons, such as


  • In after years I discovered an Ogham inscription and the famed Ogham tongue, or _Shelta_, "the lost language of the bards," according to Kuno Meyer and John Sampson.


  • Indians, my part in Oriental and Folklore and other Congresses, my discovery of the Shelta or Ogham tongue in Great Britain, and the long and very strangely adventurous discoveries, continued for five years, among _witches_ in Italy, which resulted in the discovery that all the names of the old Etruscan gods are still remembered by the peasantry of the Toscana Romagna, and that ceremonies and invocations are still addressed to them.


  • The humblest and raggedest of all the inmates of this house were two men who got their living by _shelkin gallopas_ (or selling ferns), as it is called in the Shelta, or tinker's and tramp's slang.

    The Gypsies

  • I have spoken of Shelta as a jargon; but it is, in fact, a language, for it can be spoken grammatically and without using English or Romany.

    The Gypsies

  • _Me tu sosti_, "Thou shalt be (of) me," is Romany, which is freely used in Shelta.

    The Gypsies

  • In like manner, the "Shelta Thari" has remained till the present day entirely unknown to all writers on either the languages or the nomadic people of Great Britain.

    The Gypsies


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