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Bohemian (//) refers to a resident or native 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. In English, the word "Bohemian" was used to denote the Czech people as well as the Czech language before the word "Czech" became prevalent.
In a separate meaning derived from the French word referring to "gypsies," or Romani people, "Bohemian" may also denote "a socially unconventional person, especially one who is involved in the arts." (see Bohemianism).
The name "Bohemia" derives from the name of the Boii, a Celtic tribe who inhabited that area towards the later La Tène period. The toponym Boiohaemum, first attested by Tacitus, is commonly taken to mean "home of the Boii" (from the Germanic root *haima- meaning "world, home"). The word "Bohemian" was never used by the local Czech (Slavic) population. In Czech, the region since the early Middle Ages has been called Čechy ("Czechia") but also, especially during the period of restoration/emancipation of the Czech language and nation, as Čechie. Another term, stressing the importance of the state/nation, is Království české ("Czech Kingdom") in Czech, or Böhmen (Königreich) in German. Its mainly Czech-speaking inhabitants were called Čechové (in modern Czech Češi).
In most other Western 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 such as "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 words related to "Czechs" (as in English, Tschechen in German, Tchèques in French) in a deliberate (and successful) attempt to distinguish between Bohemian Slavs (ie ethnic Bohemians) and other inhabitants of Bohemia. The latter were mostly ethnic Germans, who identified as Deutschböhmen". In many parts of Europe, state citizenship was not identical with ethnicity and language, and the various peoples were usually identified by their language.
Currently, the word "Bohemians" is sometimes used when speaking about persons from Bohemia of all ethnic origins, especially before the year 1918, when the Kingdom of Bohemia ceased to exist. It is also used to distinguish between inhabitants of the western part (Bohemia proper) of Czechia, and the eastern (Moravia) or north-eastern (Silesia) parts.
The term "Bohemianism", as associated with "social unconventionality", comes from the French bohémien. This referred to Gypsy "because Romani people were thought to come from Bohemia, or because they perhaps entered the West through Bohemia".
- "Bohemian", Oxford Dictionaries online, Oxford University Press, Retrieved on: 2011-09-14
- Tacitus, Germania 28.