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maverick

[mav-er-ik, mav-rik]
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noun
  1. Southwestern U.S. an unbranded calf, cow, or steer, especially an unbranded calf that is separated from its mother.
    1. a lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates: a modern-dance maverick.
    2. a person pursuing rebellious, even potentially disruptive, policies or ideas: You can't muzzle a maverick.
  2. Maverick, an electro-optically guided U.S. air-to-ground tactical missile for destroying tanks and other hardened targets at ranges up to 15 miles (24 km).
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adjective
  1. unorthodox, unconventional, nonconformist: a maverick fiscal conservative willing to raise taxes.
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Origin of maverick

1865–70, Americanism; after Samuel A. Maverick (1803–70), Texas pioneer who left his calves unbranded

Word story

The term maverick surged in popularity, propelled by the presidential bid in the late 2000s of US Senator John McCain, then considered a “political maverick” of the Republican Party. Given the word's Wild West roots, maverick has always had an edgy, rebellious connotation: it originally referred to unbranded cattle that strayed from the herd, putting their ownership in doubt. It was then a short step in going from this original meaning to applying the word to a person who strayed from and did not follow the thinking of a group he or she belonged to, or who rebelled against accepted ideas or to a herd mentality. Maverick thus came to generally mean an individualistic and independent thinker. In popular culture, as exemplified in the movies Maverick (1994) and Top Gun (1986), the term often describes colorful gamblers and risk takers. Depending on context, then, maverick can be applied to a pioneer who bucks current trends, or to a wild and potentially reckless loose cannon.

Popular references


—Dallas Mavericks: American professional basketball team based in Dallas, Texas, a member of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
Maverick : popular American TV series (1957–62) set in the Wild West that inspired a film of the same name (1994).
—Maverick: Nickname and call sign of ace fighter pilot, played by Tom Cruise, in the film Top Gun (1986).
—Ford Maverick: Stylish, youthfully designed mid-size car made in the late 1960s and ‘70s in North America and Brazil.
Related Quotations
  • "Gradually the term [maverick] came to mean any unbranded cattle of unknown ownership. Such animals were fair game for the first branding iron."
    -Richard W. Slatta The Cowboy Encyclopedia (1994)
  • "Listen closely to maverick entrepreneurs…, and you quickly realize that they don't sound like traditional executives."
    -William C. Taylor and Polly G. Labarr Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win (2006)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for maverick

maverick

noun
  1. (in US and Canadian cattle-raising regions) an unbranded animal, esp a stray calf
    1. a person of independent or unorthodox views
    2. (as modifier)a maverick politician
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Word Origin

C19: after Samuel A. Maverick (1803–70), Texas rancher, who did not brand his cattle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for maverick

n.

1867, "calf or yearling found without an owner's brand," so called for Samuel A. Maverick (1803-1870), Texas cattle owner who was negligent in branding his calves. Sense of "individualist, unconventional person" is first recorded 1886, via notion of "masterless."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper