Printable Version
Pronunciation: bê-hee-mi-yên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective, noun

Meaning: 1. Socially unconventional and artistic. 2. Characteristic of a vagabond, itinerant. 3. (Noun) Someone living a bohemian lifestyle. 4. (Noun, capitalized: Bohemian) A native of Bohemia, a region of the Czech Republic.

Notes: Bohemia is little known outside Central Europe. This explains most of the word's semantic meandering (see Word History). Bohemia has been commonized to bohemia "socially unconventional, artistic people collectively". Bohemianism is the quality of life of bohemians and bohemianize means "to make someone or some group bohemian".

In Play: Bohemians were the precursors of the hippies of the 1960s: "Much to her parents' displeasure, Britney loved to hobnob with the artists in the small bohemian colony in New Monia." Today's word may be used as a noun referring to bohemian people: "Greenwich Village in New York was a refuge for bohemians, unconventional artists and free-thinkers."

Word History: Today's Good Word was taken from a little-known region of the Czech Republic known as Bohemia. So, new, unknown people entering France from the East were called Bohemians. These were the Romanis in the 13th century, the Hussites in the 15th century, vagabonds or people with irregular lifestyles in the 17th century and, by the 1830s any odd communities of artists whatever their origin. The word Bohemia came from the time when that region was inhabited by a Celtic people called the Boii. Bohemia is Germanic, however, from a combination of boi- + haimaz "home", a Proto-Germanic word that is also the source of English home, German Heim "home", and Danish hjem "home". In Old English home was ham, a form preserved in the modern language in words like hamlet, Durham, and Birmingham. (Now a round of e-applause for Susan Maynard, for spotting the complexity of today's Good Word and sharing it with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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