I can't think of the word to describe it. Something similar to "wanderer" or "roamer".

It's often used to describe people that don't stay in one place... not "migratory"...

  • I removed "indigenous" because it's simply wrong used in this question. "Indigenous" means "native of a certain place". I'm an indigenous too, and you're one as well. See this example: The indigenous peoples of Siberia (people that come from there vs. foreigners, who are not indigenous of Siberia).
    – Alenanno
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 17:29
  • 8
    I would call 'a group of people who move a lot' excavators.
    – user9710
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 18:22
  • 6
    Ravers? Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 18:28
  • @Calli +1 for awesome show reference.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 18:56
  • 2
    @Kit - He didn't say "Reavers". I might have bumped him for that one too...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 21:47

11 Answers 11


I think you're looking for nomadic, which describes a group (or person) that has no permanent home. Nomadic tribes often follow herds of game animals, for instance, so they would have seasonal camps.

  • that will work, but it's not the word i was thinking of...it might have been "pastoral". thanks.
    – Marty
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 17:25
  • 3
    @marty - "pastoral" implies a pasture. When applied to a people, it generally means they are primarily livestock herders. Such a people generally need a very large range, and will need to move with their flocks to take care of (keep possession of) them. So you could say one implies the other. However, these days a "pastoral" lifestyle also often just refers to someone who spends a lot of time sitting around watching grass grow.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 17:47
  • 2
    @marty: I think the upvotes tell their own story. By any normal standards @Kit's answer is unambiguously the 'correct' one for your question. As @T.E.D. says, 'pastoral' might imply some degree of movement, but it's hard to see how that word (or indeed any other) could be a better answer to the question as posed. You can't really expect us to guess what particular word you're thinking of, whilst bearing in mind that it's not going to be the most exact match to the defintion you supplied! Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 22:12

Are you thinking of vagabond, perhaps?

  1. wandering from place to place without any settled home; nomadic: a vagabond tribe.
  2. leading an unsettled or carefree life.
  3. disreputable; worthless; shiftless.
  • 3
    Nice one. I was also thinking "itinerant" which is along the same lines.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 17:34

I voted up "nomadic" because it is probably the best word to use. However, if we are asking about English as it is commonly used, I have most often heard the word "gypsy" used for that type of person.

The problem is that this is the name of an actual group of people in Europe, and thus the term is somewhat racist. Oddly, it mostly lost its negative connotations here in the USA, but I suspect that isn't the case the closer you get to their homeland in Eastern Europe.

Anyway, if you are talking about an actual culture of people (as it looks like you are), calling them "gypsies" when they aren't actually ethnic gypsies would be very confusing.

  • +1 I was just about to add that, among others. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 17:57
  • Tzigane may be also be a variant (possibly with a lesser racist connotation?)
    – nico
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 13:56
  • @nico, Tzigane is just an odd spelling of cigány, the Hungarian word for "gypsy" (and nowadays considered about as offensive as you can get).
    – Marthaª
    Commented Jun 9, 2011 at 14:31
  • 1
    @Martha: really? I think it may be a regional issue then. Here in France for instance, you can use gitane (which I think is also derived from cigány) without any problem. There are many groups of musique gitane that play musique around here. Recently I saw a festival gitane, so definitely I wouldn't say it's rude or offensive. I have also heard gipsy (as in the band Gipsy Kings) and nobody seemed to be shocked by that. To me vagabond has a much stronger negative connotation.
    – nico
    Commented Jun 10, 2011 at 6:54
  • @nico: all the various words for "gypsy" ultimately derive from "Egypt"; the French word looks vaguely Italian to me. Anyway, the Hungarian term "cigány" is not offensive if it's clearly applied to music, but using it in any sort of "vagabond"-type sense is likely to offend. Gypsies are a sensitive subject in Hungary.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Jun 14, 2011 at 21:38

I think "nomadic" people is the correct word here.


Some more possibilities:

itinerants (from @Kit)

  • I've never heard (here in the central USA) "Bedouins" used to refer to people who aren't actually cultural Bedouins. The rest I agree with.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 18:50
  • @T.E.D. Maybe got a little carried away with that one, but there is this from Wiktionary. Commented Jun 8, 2011 at 20:21

but that could also be a single person instead of a group.


Nomadic should work. But I would not go with words like pastoral. It seems to convey a more idyllic and peaceful stance. Also, pastoral might refer to continuous movement in search of rural grasslands to base your livelihood upon.

Also, gypsies, fugitives and migrants or bedouins would be discriminatory to use in a extended sense as they are particular to certain segments of people. The same is the case with a vagabond or a tramp.

The word which I would prefer over Nomadic is the word 'drifting'. It seems to convey more of the aimless movement that the question seemed to have in mind.


I'm surprised nobody had listed commuters.


In English, discriminatory or not, we informally call a group of people who move a lot either "nomads" or "gypsies". However, I don't think of these words as discriminatory because in general "nomads" is a neutral term usually descriptive of a native population, and "gypsies" is a romantic term, at least when applied to a band of wanderers. On the other hand, "gypsies" is a prejudicial term when applied to thieving activity. :)

Most of the other terms suggested here are prejudicial, often implying lack of motivation or purpose in life. Nomads camp, hunt, do stuff; they move around as part of a purposeful life. Gypsies band together, travel, play music, offer their practical and esoteric services to the locals wherever they visit. They too move around as part of a purposeful life. Wanderers, vagrants, transients, drifters, etc., are just a bunch of bums. I think "vagabond" refers to a more upscale artistic sort of bum.

"Commuter" usually refers to someone who only moves a lot between point A and point B and back again, repetitively on some inflexible schedule such as daily or monthly. The Vice-President, Joe Biden, is a commuter.

Sidenote: Gypsy is what we outsiders call them, it's a generic term. Usually the main group of "gypsies" in Europe call themselves Romani, and we outsiders are Gadjo. Other ethnic "gypsy" groups often call themselves Travellers.

  • Though I do not doubt you, I never hear the word gypsy in the US. In fact, I had quite forgotten it until I found this site. Maybe they have assimilated very well? I have seen them referred to as Romani only. I do remember the name being used as a child. Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 10:54
  • @medica I am surprised you've never heard the term gypsy in the US. It's the first word I thought of when I read the question. I guess I did hear it more in California than I've heard it in the Midwest or Southeast, so it might be used regionally. I think it used on the Mentalist often.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 14:02
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    In the English press they say "travellers". The travellers themselves might say "travelling community". Not to be confused with travelling salesmen. When I was young we said "tinkers" because they had once been smiths and were reputed to mend pots and pans.
    – RedSonja
    Commented Mar 2, 2015 at 8:30

Nobody has mentioned "Bohemian", but that implies a lifestyle and spirituality in addition to wanderlust.

  • I've heard that word used to describe people who have never left the confines of New York City in their lives.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 14:07

As apparently no one suggested it yet, you also might want to consider "globetrotters."

globetrotter: a person that frequently travels to different places around the world.

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