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