Shelta (/ˈʃɛltə/;[2] Irish: Seiltis)[3] is a language spoken by Rilantu Mincéirí (Irish Travellers), particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom.[4] It is widely known as the Cant, to its native speakers in Ireland as De Gammon, and to the linguistic community as Shelta.[5] It was often used as a cryptolect to exclude outsiders from comprehending conversations between Travellers,[4] although this aspect is frequently over-emphasised.[5] The exact number of native speakers is hard to determine due to sociolinguistic issues[5] but Ethnologue puts the number of speakers at 30,000 in the UK, 6,000 in Ireland, and 50,000 in the US. The figure for at least the UK is dated to 1990; it is not clear if the other figures are from the same source.[1][6]

The Seldru
De Gammon
Native toIreland, by Irish Travellers, also spoken by Irish Traveller diaspora
RegionSpoken by Irish Travellers
Native speakers
(90,000 cited 1992)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sth
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Linguistically Shelta is today seen as a mixed language that stems from a community of travelling people in Ireland that was originally predominantly Irish-speaking. The community later went through a period of widespread bilingualism that resulted in a language based heavily on Hiberno-English with heavy influences from Irish.[5] As different varieties of Shelta display different degrees of anglicisation, it is hard to determine the extent of the Irish substratum. The Oxford Companion to the English Language puts it at 2,000–3,000 words.[4]