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Bohemian (//) refers to a resident of Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic or the former Kingdom of Bohemia, a region of the former Lands of the Bohemian Crown. In a wider sense it refers to residents of the Czech lands or the today's Czech Republic in general. 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 the early 20th century.
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" has never been widely used by the local Czech population. In Czech, the region since the early Middle Ages has been called Čechy 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 ethnic Slavic-speaking Bohemians and other inhabitants of Bohemia. The latter were mostly ethnic Germans, who identified as "German Bohemians" (Deutschböhmen) or simply as "Bohemians" (Böhmen). In many parts of Europe, state citizenship was not identical with ethnicity and language, and the various peoples were usually identified by their language. It should be noted that ethnic boundaries in Bohemia were not always sharp, and people very often were bilingual. Intermarriages across language borders were also common. Native Czech speakers nearly always spoke German and many native German speakers spoke Czech with varying fluency, particularly in areas with many Czech speakers.
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 the state, 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.