The words “gypsy” and “boho” are thrown around incessantly in terms of contemporary fashion and lifestyle trends these days. Its easy to adopt the slang uses of these terms into modern vocabulary to refer to the way artsy, fashionable, and adventurous people behave… But where do these words really come from, and what do they really mean?
I’m learning that words are extremely powerful, and the idea that words bring thought forms into physical manifestation is one of the oldest forms of magic. Therefore, without taking myself too seriously, I like to at least decode the words before placing labels on myself or others… even if I decide in the end that its fun to keep using the slang, its good to get an idea of where words come from!
Now, before we jump into this subject, I must insert a little disclaimer: the definitions provided in this article are very basic dictionary descriptions of the terms “gypsy” and “bohemian.” The views expressed in the later half of the article are my personal opinion based on my experience. Its been brought to my attention that these simplistic definitions may come off as offensive to those who are more interested in the ethnic aspect of the terms. I do not claim to be an exert on this subject. If this tidbit sparks your interest to learn more about the history and culture of Gypsies, awesome! If you’ve never explored the meaning of these popular terms, hopefully this post is a good place to start!
Lets start by decoding the words gypsy and bohemian.
- A Gypsy in the dictionary is defined literally as a member of a people scattered throughout Europe and North America, who maintain a nomadic way of life in industrialized societies, specifically those who migrated from North West India beginning in the 9th century.
- The word dates back to 1505, a slang version of the word gipcyan, which was a slang version of the word Egyptian. It stemmed, from a belief that Gypsies came originally from Egypt.
Now, the dictionary implies that Gypsy with a capital G refers to the ethnicity, where gypsy with a lowercase g is more a modern slang for a person who looks or behaves like a Gypsy in the way they dress or live, with regards to “freedom or inclination to move from place to place.
- Bohemia refers to a region in the West Czech Republic, and Bohemian with a capital B refers to people of that ethnic culture.
- Again, bohemian with a lowercase b became slang for a person, such as an artist or writer, who lives free of regard for conventional rules and practices, or someone who is living a wandering or vagabond life, like a Gypsy.
- They go on to define bohemian as “a descriptive term for a stereotypical way of life for artists and intellectuals who live in material poverty because they prefer their art or their learning over material goods. They are also unconventional in habits and dress, and sometimes in morals.”
- When I read on about the meaning of the word Gypsy in ancient culture, the dictionary alludes to the fact that in Middle French they were called Bohémien, which leads to our modern word Bohemian.
To take it a step further into slang terms, over the last ten years, the words gypsy and bohemian have become more commonplace than ever as its become very fashionable to adapt their stereotypes into fashion and lifestyle trends. Bohemian or “boho chic” is one of the most commonly searched keywords on the internet, leading to blogs and shopping destinations for gypsy and hippie style clothing, accessories and artwork… And while I LOVE the carefree, earthy, and artsy lifestyle trends, I can’t help but guess that most people who are following these trends haven’t the slightest clue of the history behind it…
So what does the word gypsy mean to me?
While I’ve learned that the word ‘gypsy’ is an even more loaded term than I’d originally imagined, it still seems to have an energy to it that resonates with my personality in a unique way. Like many terms which have evolved over the course of history, this is another one that means something a little different to each of us. I’ve heard it referred to as everything from a compliment to a swear word, and everything in between!
To me, the word gypsy is about eclecticism. Its about having the bravery to dance to the beat of my own drum; to follow the path of my own soul. It’s about collecting the parts of any and every culture and tradition that speaks to me, without being tied down to the dogmatism of anything in particular. Its about being true to myself, rain or shine. Its about the ability to make anywhere my home, by being centered and grounded within my heart, even when my surroundings are in a state of disarray. Its about having the courage to follow my dreams wherever they take me, whether that lives up to someone else’s view of success or not. It’s about showing respect for all lives and appreciating people’s differences. Its about being a world-citizen, knowing that regardless of our differences, we’re all the same inside. Its about being able to get along almost everywhere, even when I don’t fit in anywhere.Its about using my intuition to decide what to bring with me along my journey, and what to leave behind. Its about using creativity and ingenuity to survive and thrive with whatever resources life grants me at any given time. Its about trying on different hats in life, questioning my beliefs periodically to make sure they still fit me before carrying them forward. Its about re-purposing things to renew their value, and giving away things that are better suited for someone else. Its about living close to the Earth, and letting the stars guide me. Its about trusting my path, and trusting the Universe to meet my needs and teach me what I need to learn.