• maverick •
mæ-vêr-ik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A calf or other animal that has left the herd and has not been branded, so that anyone who brands it can claim ownership. It can also be a garrulous individualist, an iconoclast who lives by his or her own rules, posing some kind of threat to others.
Notes: Maverick is rather a maverick of a word, a garrulous individual with no lexical kin. It may, however, be used 'as is' adjectivally, "Buck Shott is a maverick CEO who took a chance when no one else would to produce pedal-powered wheelchairs."
In Play: Although we generally use this word to refer to iconoclasts who pose some sort of threat, we owe a lot to mavericks. Charles Darwin and Galileo were among the scientific mavericks who grandly expanded our understanding of the world and the universe. Henry Ford started out as a maverick who revolutionized manufacturing. Those of us who have been around for a while remember Bret (James Garner) and Bart (Jack Kelly) Maverick on the US TV show Maverick, popular in the 1960's. They were cowboys who lived around the edge of the law, mavericks among the TV cowboy heroes of the time in their cowardice and fecklessness.
Word History: The eponym of this word is Texas cattleman Samuel Maverick (1803-1870), who let the calves in his herd roam unbranded. Initially ranchers, who 'adopted' them, simply referred to them as Maverick's but the term soon migrated to mavericks. An interesting side note: Sam's grandson, Maury Maverick, coined the word gobbledygook to describe bureaucratic doubletalk while serving in the U.S. Congress.
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