This article explores the social, legal, and administrative response in Tudor and early Stuart England to people known in law as ‘Egyptians’ or ‘counterfeit Egyptians’ but commonly called ‘Gypsies’. It argues that such people differed from ordinary poor vagrants in their heritage, their language, and such activities as horse dealing and fortune-telling. Elizabethan and Jacobean publications placed Gypsies on the fringes of fecklessness, criminality, and the picaresque, and established a stereotype of deceit and imposture that has not yet disappeared. Acts of Parliament in 1531, 1554, and 1563 criminalized ‘Egyptians’, forbidding their entry, ordering their expulsion, and eventually making them liable to the death penalty. Enforcement, however, was haphazard, and repression co-existed uneasily with growing registers of tolerance. This is a neglected topic in early modern social history, with links to international and interdisciplinary Romani studies as well as work on itinerancy, ethnicity, and marginality.