Maverick: Baby Name of the Day

Publicity photo of James Garner as Bret Maveri...

Publicity photo of James Garner as Bret Maverick and Suzanne Storrs from the television program Maverick. This episode is “Guatamala City”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 27, 2008 with the title “Don’t Go There: Maverick.”  I originally thought I’d run a series of posts about names parents should never consider for their children.  The site has changed quite a bit in four years – as have I! – and I thought Maverick deserved a more neutral treatment.

Cowboy names are very much in vogue, and unconventional choices for boys are on the rise.  Quiksilver and Vans make pint-sized versions of their skatewear. Strollers boast more options than my first car – and cost more, too. Indie bands hold kid-friendly concerts at midday. Yup, parenting is a lot cooler than it ever was before.

No wonder our kids’ names are heading in the same direction.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Maverick.

Many of us who are now of an age to name our babies remember Maverick as Tom Cruise’s daredevil fly-boy character in Top Gun back in 1986. It’s worth noting that Maverick was his callsign – his given name was Pete.

Before Cruise flew into the danger zone, there was an ABC show called Maverick in the 1950s.  The series featured a family of cool-headed gamblers, reluctant heroes of the Wild West.  Maverick was the last name.  Bret, Bart, Beau, and Brent all featured on the series before its 1962 ending.  As a given name, Maverick first appeared in 1958 and 1959, but he faded quickly.

Then along came a 1994 reboot of the movie, starring Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, and the name re-entered the Top 1000.

The term originated when Texas rancher Samuel A. Maverick decided to leave his calves unbranded.  It was an unconventional strategy – and that’s just what maverick has come to mean.  The origin of Sam’s surname is debated.  Some say it is Welsh, while others claim Hebrew roots.  What’s certain is that today a maverick is someone who acts independently.

It is also a missile.

That’s the challenge with Maverick.  While many of his qualities are positive, they’re not exactly neutral.  Who could forget Sarah Palin embracing the term during the 2008 presidential election?  And maverick can also mean controversial or rebellious.

Plenty of signs point to Maverick’s continued rise:

  • He’s a surname name and a noun name.
  • The boys’ Top 100 is packed with little wranglers: think Wyatt, Chase, Colton.
  • His sound is spot-on.  Mav is a cool short form, and his -rick ending reminds us of Frederick, Derek and Eric, conventional choices for our sons.

But is he too cool?  The Dallas Mavericks are an NBA franchise, and the name has been used for Ford vehicles, cigarettes, shotguns, comic book characters, and at least one roller coaster.

It could also make for an awful lot of pressure for a child, especially if he ends up being bookish and shy instead of daring and brash.

Still, he’s undeniably on the uptick.  634 boys received the name in 2011, and he reached #425 – a record. With so much use, Maverick mellows … and for better and for worse, mellows into a more wearable name.

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  1. Laura says

    I served on the carrier used in the filming of Top Gun. I am stark determined to have it in the name of a son (be it first or middle name) because of its association with my time onboard that ship. My time in the Navy made me the person I am, and ked me down the path that brought me to my fiance. I really don’t care that some politician who will likely be forgotten in 5 or 10 years (she’s a joke now, but winners are the ones remembered long term) used the noun to describe herself. Soon enough some new politician will come and do something to make a fool of themself and she’ll be all but forgotten. And since the name is conducive to a man who goes against the norm and is his own individual…..any personality type really fits it, since everyone sees themself as a totally unique individual, and those close to them see them as totally unique individuals. A maverick isn’t bold, a maverick is an individual who goes against the norm. Everyone sees themself as doing what’s right, regardless of what people think u.u

  2. Shelley says

    My nephew’s name is Maverick. My whole family and I were unsure of my sister’s choice at first, but now I couldn’t imagine him as anything else. Mav is indeed an cool nickname, fitting for an amazing little boy.

    He’s not named after a basketball team, or a name branded on cows, and especially not after some stupid soundbite from an election that happpened 7+ years ago.

    Mavericks is a surfing location and destination for some of the world’s best big wave surfers nearby where we live.,_California

    I don’t think it’s very fair to single out a name like this; I would hardly call this revision a “neutral stance.”
    I’ve seen plenty examples of much more uncommon or unusual names receive a lot more respect on here. Just something to consider moving forward. No shade, I swear. I love your site.

  3. Panya says

    My step-father was named after Bret Maverick, thus my brother, and his third son are named Bret as well. Since this show is so “well-known” in our family, I don’t think any of us would ever consider Maverick as a given name — especially with the Sarah Palin association.

    • appellationmountain says

      Fascinating. I always love it when people know where their names come from, whether it’s great-great-great-aunt Griselda or a television character.

  4. Lola says

    I once read with intrigue a family blog. They had two boys maverick & bronco and two girls paisley and Lacey. Just too much!

  5. says

    This name actually dropped for me once it became the GOP presidential campaign buzzword, especially since I viewed a man running for office as America’s first black President to be equally deserving of the terminology, but I have always liked it, and definitely agree it’s even more acceptable as a name today! And in a world of Top Gun’s retro-coolness, it’s definitely an easier baby name to get behind than Iceman or Goose!

  6. Lyndsay says

    I met a Maverick at the park a couple years ago, he was probably four. He said he loved his name. Based on sound alone it’s nice. It’s not any more out there than Pilot or Drummer. Too much for me but I see why people would like it.

  7. Emily says

    I know a little Maverick. He must be about three by now. I remember when he was first born and my family met him at my cousin’s birthday party. The older generations were quite, shall we say, stunned by his name?

  8. Julie says

    Back in the short period that I lived in Texas, I knew a couple Mavericks. For one it was his given name, but he preferred to be called Rick (I have no idea if he was related the original Maverick family.) For the other it was a nickname and he wore it as a badge of honor. A wanna-be cowboy who worked for the forest service and took nothing serious, except for football.

    I’ve seen a few BA’s for Mavericks in Minnesota (it’s the mascot for one of our universities), but I think it should stay in the nickname-only category.

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