Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits, with few permanent ties. Bohemians can be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds. The term bohemian, of French origin, was first used in the English language in the nineteenth century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities. Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which were often expressed through free love, frugality, and/or voluntary poverty. The term emerged in France in the early 19th century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class gypsy neighborhoods. The term bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia.
The impish American writer and Bohemian Club member Gelett Burgess, who coined the word "blurb" among other things, supplied this description of the amorphous place called Bohemia: "To take the world as one finds it, the bad with the good, making the best of the present moment—to laugh at Fortune alike whether she be generous or unkind—to spend freely when one has money, and to hope gaily when one has none—to fleet the time carelessly, living for love and art—this is the temper and spirit of the modern Bohemian in his outward and visible aspect. It is a light and graceful philosophy, but it is the Gospel of the Moment, this exoteric phase of the Bohemian religion; and if, in some noble natures, it rises to a bold simplicity and naturalness, it may also lend its butterfly precepts to some very pretty vices and lovable faults, for in Bohemia one may find almost every sin save that of Hypocrisy. ... His faults are more commonly those of self-indulgence, thoughtlessness, vanity and procrastination, and these usually go hand-in-hand with generosity, love and charity; for it is not enough to be one’s self in Bohemia, one must allow others to be themselves, as well. ... What, then, is it that makes this mystical empire of Bohemia unique, and what is the charm of its mental fairyland? It is this: there are no roads in all Bohemia! One must choose and find one’s own path, be one’s own self, live one’s own life."
In modern usage, the term "Bohemian" is applied to people who live unconventional, usually artistic, lives. The adherents of the "Bloomsbury Group", which formed around the Stephen sisters, Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf in the early 20th century, are among the best-known examples. The original "Bohemians" were travelers or refugees from central Europe (hence, the French bohémien, for "gypsy"). Vanessa Bell, née Stephen (1879-1961) Reflecting on the fashion style of "boho-chic" in the early years of the 21st century, the Sunday Times thought it ironic that "fashionable girls wore ruffly floral skirts in the hope of looking bohemian, nomadic, spirited and non-bourgeois", whereas "gypsy girls themselves ... are sexy and delightful precisely because they do not give a hoot for fashion". By contrast, in the late 19th century and first half of the 20th, aspects of Bohemian fashion reflected the lifestyle itself.