A Bohemian is a resident of the former Kingdom of Bohemia, either in a narrow sense as the region of Bohemia proper or in a wider meaning as the whole country, now known as the Czech Republic. The word "Bohemian" used to denote the Czech people as well as the Czech language before the word "Czech" became prevalent in English.
Origin and usage
The name "Bohemia" derives from the Latin term for the Celtic tribe inhabiting that area, the Boii, who were called Boiohaemum in the early Middle Ages. The word "Bohemian" was never used by the local Czech (Slavic) population. In Czech, the region since the early Different Ages has been called only Čechy ("Bohemia") or Království české ("Bohemian Kingdom"), and its mainly Czech-speaking inhabitants were called Čechové (in modern Czech Češi).
In most other European vernaculars and in Latin (as Bohemi), the word "Bohemian" or a derivate was used. If the Czech ethnic origin was to be stressed, combinations like "Bohemian of Bohemian language" (Čech českého jazyka), "a real Bohemian" (pravý Čech) etc. were used.
It was not until the 19th century that other European languages began to use the word "Czechs" (in English – Tschechen in German, Tchèques in French) in a deliberate (and successful) attempt to distinguish between Bohemian Slavs and other inhabitants of Bohemia (mostly Germans). Currently, the word "Bohemians" is sometimes used when speaking about persons from Bohemia of non-Czech or mixed ethnic origin, especially before the year 1918, when the Kingdom of Bohemia ceased to exist; also when there is need to distinguish between inhabitants of the western part (Bohemia proper) of Czechia, and the eastern (Moravia) or the north-eastern part (Silesia).
The term "Bohemian" as related to Bohemianism – i.e., describing the nontraditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, musicians, and actors in major European cities – emerged in France in the early 19th century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class gypsy neighbourhoods. The term bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia.
Notes and references
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