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[mav-er-ik, mav-rik] /ˈmæv ər ɪk, ˈmæv rɪk/
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.
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).
unorthodox, unconventional, nonconformist:
a maverick fiscal conservative willing to raise taxes.
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.
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)
“Maverick is a word which appeals to me more than misfit. Maverick is active, misfit is passive.“
—Alan Rickman (actor), “Alan Rickman's Quotes“ Facebook (2008)
“The rugged individualist is too often mistaken for the misfit, the maverick, the spoilsport, the sore thumb.“
—Lewis H. Lapham, Money and Class in America: Notes and Observations on Our Civil Religion (1988)
“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) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for maverick


(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
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
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Word Origin and History for maverick

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."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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