Saturday, October 4, 2008

That's Samuel Augustus Maverick, to you.

From the OED:


the name of Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70), U.S. politician, and the owner of a large herd of cattle in Texas in which the calves were unbranded.

1869 Overland Monthly Aug. 127/1 One Maverick formerly owned such immense herds that many of his animals unavoidably escaped his rouanne in the spring, were taken up by his neighbors, branded and called ‘mavericks’. The term eventually spread over the whole State, and is in use now, not only to denote a waif thus acquired, but any young animal. No great drove can sweep through this mighty unfenced State without drawing a wake of these ‘mavericks’.

An etymology from the name of a Samuel Maverick resident in Boston in the early 17th cent. has elsewhere been suggested, but seems implausible in view of the date of the earliest examples of the word, and the fact that this Maverick had no connection with cattle farming; evidence is lacking to support the claim that the word is earlier attested denoting an unmarked log in a Maine river drive.

A. n.

1. N. Amer. An unbranded calf or yearling.

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