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[shel-tuh] /ˈʃɛl tə/
a private language, based in part on Irish, used among Travelers in the British Isles.
Origin of Shelta
First recorded in 1875-80; origin uncertain Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Shelta
Historical Examples
  • Our informant could give only a single specimen of the Shelta literature.

    The Gypsies Charles G. Leland
  • Me tu sosti, “Thou shalt be (of) me,” is Romany, which is freely used in Shelta.

    The Gypsies Charles G. Leland
  • Shelta is perhaps the last Old British dialect as yet existing which has thus far remained undiscovered.

    The Gypsies Charles G. Leland
  • This language, or jargon, known as Shelta, has been the subject of much learned writing.

    The Gypsy's Parson George Hall
British Dictionary definitions for Shelta


a secret language used by some itinerant tinkers in Ireland and parts of Britain, based on systematically altered Gaelic
Word Origin
C19: from earlier sheldrū, perhaps an arbitrary alteration of Old Irish bēlre speech
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for Shelta



secret language of Irish tinkers, 1876, of unknown origin. According to OED it mostly consists of Irish or Gaelic words with inversion or arbitrary substitution of initial consonants.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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