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I'm looking for an English word that describes the state of being a vagabond, and can be used in a sentence like this:

"My only goal is vagabond-age" (to coin a word).

More details:

I'm trying to translate an Urdu word "Aawaargi" which means a state of blissfully chosen loneliness, with connotations of detachment, wanderlust and not belonging to any one place. The poet says "I seek aawaargi", and the closest I could come up with is "I seek vagabond[age]"

Perhaps I should be using a completely different word to describe this state of desirous loneliness. I'd really like a word that can describe the state, rather than the person in that state.

  • Nomadic. Nomadism. Indigent. – Dan Bron Dec 25 '14 at 0:03
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    Did you look up the word vagabondage? It means the activity or state of being a vagabond. But vagabond does not mean someone who is lonely. Look vagabond up too, while you are at it. – Drew Dec 25 '14 at 4:38
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Vagabondage is a recognized word and there are dictionary entries for it. However, it is borrowed from French and it is used in French also. A more common term in English is vagrancy, as vagabond and vagrant are synonyms.

vagabondage: the state or characteristic of being a vagabond.

vagrancy: the state of being a vagrant

[Wiktionary]


On the other hand, blissful vagrancy makes more sense in spiritual and religious contexts. For example, there are dervishes who choose vagrancy and practice asceticism. [Dar in Persian means "a door"; "dervish" has been interpreted as "one who goes from door to door". The Persian word also gives terms for "ascetic" in some languages, as in the Urdu phrase darveshaneh tabi'at, "an unflappable or ascetic temperament". 1]

Also, you can see the similarity between aawargi and vagari (Latin origin of vagabond and vagrant).

A vagrant or a vagabond is a person, often in poverty, who wanders from place to place without a home or regular employment or income. Other synonyms include "tramp," "hobo," and "drifter".

Both "vagrant" and "vagabond" ultimately derive from Latin word vagari "wander." The term "vagabond" is derived from Latin vagabundus. In Middle English, "vagabond" originally denoted a criminal.

In some East Asian and South Asian countries, the condition of vagrancy has long been historically associated with the religious life, as described in the religious literature of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Muslim Sufi traditions. Examples include sadhus, dervishes, Bhikkhus and the sramanic traditions generally.2

1 Wikipedia/Dervish

2 Wikipedia/Vagrancy


Google Ngram comparison between vagrancy, vagabondage and vagabondism:

enter image description here


In the end, vagrancy can be a near equivalent but there might not be an exact equivalent because aawargi is a combination of different aspects. As explained below based on a ghazal written by the Urdu poet Mohsin Naqvi:

A beautiful Urdu word, expressing a state of being, rather than any particular feeling. 'Aawargi' is a very difficult word to interpret, but the closest one can get to explaining it is the mind being in a state of a mystic, erratic, a trifle sexually charged, somewhat spiritual, wanderlust and finding a fulfilling solitude at the end of it all.

[worldofghazals.blogspot.ca]

The term is also part of Indian culture and vagrancy is mentioned as an equivalent in the below post:

Awaara [Hindi:आवारा,Urdu:آوارہ] is a Hindi/ Urdu word which means someone away from or without a family, someone who roams around without any work etc., a wanderer, vagrant.

Awaargi or Aawaargi is the word for such state of wandering, vagrancy. The word can be heard in many songs including the one titled 'Main aur Meri Awargi' (I and My Vagrancy) sung by Kishore Kumar and then Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Awargi is also the title of a famous ghazal sung by Ghulam Ali.

[bollymeaning.com]

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    Note however that vagrancy has a significant negative connotation in English. It is used to describe those with no job and no fixed residence and who are therefore apt to "get up to no good". For example, there are laws against vagrancy in many locations in the United States. I don't think that's the meaning the OP is attempting to evoke. – Mark Thompson Dec 25 '14 at 0:25
  • @MarkThompson: Definitely depends on the context. I included more information. – ermanen Dec 25 '14 at 0:43
  • Thank you for the elaboration. I still think using "vagrancy" alone would not work in the context described by the OP. It has too much of a negative connotation in common parlance, even more so than vagabond, and would likely bring the wrong type of imagery to mind in a translated poem. Using a phrase like "blissful vagrancy" would likely blunt that problem, though I suspect it might result in some cognitive dissonance in some readers. – Mark Thompson Dec 25 '14 at 1:03
  • @MarkThompson: Thanks but I do not agree with you also. I also included the actual context in OP's culture. Vagrancy covers wanderlust, loneliness and not belonging to any place. I think this is the closest equivalent. But obviously he is going to use it in a context. It wouldn't be just a one line poem. – ermanen Dec 25 '14 at 1:05
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    @ermanen, Thanks for the comprehensive answer. I didn't realize "vagabondage" was a word. The ghazal you mention was what I was looking at, wondering how I'd translate it. The word is the title, and repeated in many verses. I thought of it because of the English poems that used "vagabond". I like Mark's idea of using an adjective like "blissful" to push the reader in the right direction. – Darius Dec 26 '14 at 14:01
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While the definitions of vagabond and vagrant seem near to what you are trying to say, the negative connotations of both terms will detract from your meaning. I would suggest bohemianism which would allude to an alternate lifestyle of wandering,(Wikipedia) and modify it with something like solitary or isolated.

  • Hmm! I wonder if I could use "bohemian vagrancy" and "blissful vagrancy" to clarify the meaning. Thank you. – Darius Dec 26 '14 at 14:02
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The closest I can think of is solitude, which would be a fairly poetic choice (hence fitting into a translated poem). It certainly means "blissfully chosen loneliness" and "detachment", and connotes "not belonging to any one place". It doesn't do much along the lines of "wanderlust", however. While not directly contradicting the concept, solitude generally does not imply motion.

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'A gentleman of the road.' A bohemian is a good fit.

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