The baby name Maverick has gone from cowboy cool to flyboy to Top 100 favorite.
Inspired by the 2022 Top Gun sequel, it’s our Baby Name of the Day.
The 1986 smash hit movie Top Gun starred a young Tom Cruise as a brilliant combat pilot, tapped to attend the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program, better known as Top Gun. (Yup, it’s real.)
Tom Cruise played a character named Pete Mitchell. But you’d have to be a superfan to know that. Even Pete introduces himself by his call sign:
PETE: “I’m Maverick.”
CHARLOTTE: “Maverick? Did your mother not like you or something?”
PETE: “No, it’s my call sign.”
CHARLOTTE: “You’re a pilot.”
PETE: “That’s right. Naval aviator.”
Of course, Charlotte has a call sign of her own. She’s Charlie, an astrophysicist and defense instructor at Top Gun.
As the hero of the movie, Mav suffers setbacks and heartache, but ultimately saves the day.
The action movie included plenty of drama, a soaring soundtrack, and a happy (enough) ending. Can’t remember the details? Kenny Loggins’ soundtrack song “Danger Zone” has the highlights, Ray-Bans and all.
As with any film so successful, it stayed in the public eye thanks to subsequent releases of the DVD, anniversary collections, and years upon years of speculations about possible sequels.
Because fans have been clamoring for a sequel ever since 1986. After several pandemic-related delays, the new movie debuted in 2022.
Top Gun: Maverick gave us the continuing story of Pete Mitchell. And, like the original, it’s also a hit.
There’s something uniquely American about the baby name Maverick.
But the surname Maverick? It appears in seventeenth century immigration records – at least in small numbers. At least some of the family can trace their roots back to Devon, in England.
Samuel Maverick died in the Boston Massacre in 1770 at the age of seventeen, a confrontation between British soldiers and disgruntled residents.
There’s a Maverick Square in East Boston today, name for the wealthy Maverick family – also named Samuel, and an ancestor of the man who made the name a noun as a rancher in Texas, centuries later.
AN INDEPENDENT MAN
Texas rancher Samuel A. Maverick refused to brand his cattle.
It’s said he didn’t want to inflict pain on his calves. Or maybe it was because Maverick could claim any unbranded cattle as his own. Other accounts suggest he just wasn’t that interested in ranching in the first place. After all, he was also a lawyer and politician. And he sold his herd later in life.
Whatever his reasons, the name “maverick” meant masterless by the late nineteenth century, and soon after, “independent” in a broader sense.
Samuel’s family helped spread the name.
During the 1930s, his grandson, Maury Maverick, served as a congressman from Texas. Like his grandfather, Maury was known for his fierce independence.
The politician’s years in office track with the name’s transition from obscure surname to something bigger.
In the 1950s, ABC’s Maverick introduced us to a family of cool-headed gamblers, reluctant heroes of the Wild West.
Bret, Bart, Beau, and Brent all shared the surname Maverick during the show’s run, between the years 1957 and 1962.
It inspired a handful of parents to embrace Maverick as a first name. 32 boys were named Maverick in 1957, followed by 89 in 1958. That was just enough to put the name in the Top 1000 popular boys’ names in 1958 and 1959.
The name faded slowly, with just a dozen or fewer receiving the name after the series left the air.
Then along came the 2008 campaign for the US presidency.
Barack Obama would win, but before that could happen, McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, would adopt the term “maverick” for themselves.
Arizona’s McCain and Alaska’s Palin hailed from places that felt rugged and untamed. Even before he ran for the highest office in the land, maverick described McCain’s strong independent streak, often breaking with his party on key issues over a long political career.
It’s possible to imagine that “maverick” could have become an overtly political term tied to a single party. Indeed, a handful of conservative uses remain, more than a dozen years later. But it never really stuck.
After all, the hallmark of a maverick is … independence.
BY the NUMBERS
When we left Maverick, the television series, the year was 1959, and the baby name Maverick had just ended its last year in the boys’ Top 1000.
The name had fallen to near-obscurity by Top Gun’s 1986 release. Just 19 boys received the name that year.
By 1987? The number climbed to 44.
A few years later, in 1994, the character of Bret Maverick was re-booted in a big screen movie starring Mel Gibson.
And that’s the same year that the baby name Maverick returned to the US Top 1000, at #978.
It’s never left.
If anything, the McCain-Palin campaign caused the name to cool just a bit.
But pop culture associations with the name are strong. Besides the aviator and the gambler, the name is shared with an NBA franchise, a Ford pick-up, cigarettes, shotguns, a missile, and at least one roller coaster.
BOLD BOY NAMES
Parents view independent, free-thinking, and tough as positive qualities; the meanings of the name line up neatly with traits many of us would like to encourage in our children After all, Tom Cruise ends Top Gun a hero.
There’s a bit of danger in the meaning, too. It hints at an appetite for risk beyond what might be considered wise.
But this is the age of bold baby names, a moment when choices like Legend and Wilder, Messiah and Reign are on the rise.
No names outpaces Maverick, though.
It entered the US Top 100 in 2017, and as of 2021, stood at an all-time high of #47.
That’s the bad news. If you’re after a nonconformist kind of name? Maverick might be one in the crowd.
Still, it appeals for so many good reasons:
- We love a good surname, plus a solid noun name – and this one is both.
- The middle ‘v’ sound is everywhere. Just ask Oliver and Everett.
- Boys’ names have ended in -ric for ages, from Frederick and Patrick to Derek and Eric.
- Wyatt, Chase, Colton and more favorites feel at home on the range, and that tracks with Maverick’s Texas connection.
SET TO SOAR
In 2022, the long-delayed sequel Top Gun: Maverick debuted to strong reviews and blockbuster ticket sales.
This time, Maverick is right in the title.
Could the name climb higher?
Another factor: we hear popular names differently. No one expects Grace to be a ballerina or Hunter to be a crack shot. As Maverick becomes even more mainstream, it retains all the positives of the name’s meaning, but feels a little easier to wear.
That makes Maverick the most wearable of the bold boy names.
The only real question is how high the name will soar.
What do you think of the baby name Maverick?
First published on January 27, 2008, this post initially dismissed Maverick as unwearable.
Over time, I realized I was wrong at best; snobbish and cruel at worst. Updates followed on January 7, 2013; January 29, 2020; and August 9, 2022.
I hope the revisions indicate that I can change my mind – and be honest when I’ve been wrong. Oh, and, I hope it reminds us all that style changes, constantly, and today’s Hildegarde is tomorrow’s Abigail. And vice versa.
I named my son Maverick in 2011 and still love it but I don’t love it going from in the mid 400s of baby names to 139 this year (2017.) If you think it is too ‘out there’ use it as a middle name. I almost did JAMESON MAVERICk thinking if he wanted something more mainstream later he could go by it. I love it though. I wanted a strong, unusual boy name and you can’t go wrong with a cowboy non-conformist.
Kelly Cozart says
we named our son maverick four years ago and had planned on his nickname to be mack, but we usually just call him mav.
Jackie Beard says
Named my son Maverick after the love me and my wife had for the Dallas Mavericks. That was what we did when we were dating is go to the Mavs games. He was born on October 11, 2010 and his first year of life the Dallas Mavericks won there championship. My wife and I joke that they knew he was here so they had to win it all for his first year of life lol. Now 5 years later he knows all the players and the Dallas Maverick dancers know him. I mean they really know him by name. Its cool to go to a game now and here them yelling at him and stop and talk to him. Love the name Maverick and my son was born to be a Maverick.
Now that is an awesome name story!
What’s his middle name?
I named my son maverick, in 2011 just like the article says, and now i feel trendy, but i was trying to be the opposite. thanks alot….
BTW, i chose the name after hearing them calling john mccain maverick. and you need to quit running your commie mouths about sarah p
Well … I think you’ve just made my point, em. Any name with a strong political association can feel charged. Some will find it an appealing reminder of a candidate they support, and some will find it too identified with a candidate that they dislike.
That is so easily forgotten. McCain/Palin’s ticket tanked and I don’t think of it nor will anyone in my son’s generation. Heck, they don’t even know James Garner Maverick or Top Gun Maverick so why would they know a political catch phrase that’ll be years removed?
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
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. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Mavericks,_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.
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.
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.
I once read with intrigue a family blog. They had two boys maverick & bronco and two girls paisley and Lacey. Just too much!
Waltzing More Than Matilda says
I must confess to being very curious what other names made the “don’t go there” list! 🙂
Maverick is the only one I ever published!
WHY would it be don’t go there? I don’t get it. A Maverick is a pretty cool thing, meaning-wise, famous namesakes. It isn’t IMHO like APPLE which should be don’t go there.
Kathryn, it’s not anymore. When I first wrote this post – in 2008, I think? – it was a rare name. It felt bold and tough to wear. As it has gotten more and more mainstream – and the McCain/Palin ticket fades out of the popular imagination – I think Maverick has been transformed. At the same time, naming has moved on. Maverick seems less intense than, say, Messiah or King. And yet, I can make a case for using names like that, too …
So it’s not Don’t Go There anymore … not by a longshot! But I try to preserve the history of the original posts. Feels more honest that way. I might know a lot about names and naming, but I don’t get it right all of the time.
Bonus: Recently used by Baltimore orioles star catcher Matt Wieters for his new son.
Great addition – thanks!
The Name Station 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!
VERY nice point about Iceman and Goose! 😉
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.
Yeah, not a big fan of Maverick at all.
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?
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.
Maverick McNealy is all over sports pages as the top amateur golfer.