[ mav-er-ik, mav-rik ]
/ ˈmæv ər ɪk, ˈmæv rɪk /
Save This Word!


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, or nonconformist: a maverick fiscal conservative willing to raise taxes.



Did you ever collect all those state quarters? Put them to good use on this quiz about curious state monikers and the facts around them.
Question 1 of 8
Mississippi’s nickname comes from the magnificent trees that grow there. What is it?

Origin of maverick

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

historical usage of maverick

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 for maverick

—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.

Quotations related to maverick

  • "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)
  • "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)
  • "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)
  • "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. 2021

Example sentences from the Web for maverick

British Dictionary definitions for maverick

/ (ˈmævərɪk) /


(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 for maverick

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
See Today's Synonym