What turned Maverick into a baby name?

Title of the TV series "Maverick" (1957-1962)
Title of the TV series “Maverick”

The baby name Maverick is more popular than ever in the U.S. these days. Where did this name come from, and how has pop culture helped make it so trendy?

Maverick the surname

Maverick began as an English surname. Its etymology is unknown, but there are several theories. Some think the origin is Welsh. Others think it’s related to the name Maurice.

The surname traveled with settlers to the New World as early as the 1620s.

Maverick the noun/adjective

One of the descendants of those 17th-century settlers was Texas cattle owner Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870).

When he returned permanently to San Antonio with his family, Maverick left a small herd of cattle originally purchased in 1847 on Matagorda Peninsula with slave caretakers. It was this herd that was allowed to wander and gave rise to the term maverick, which denotes an unbranded calf.

The earliest recorded use of “maverick” in this sense comes from 1867.

The earliest recorded use of “maverick” to refer to a human — someone who does not follow rules, someone who is unconventional — comes from 1886.

Maverick on television

The TV Western Maverick debuted in 1957 and ran until 1962. The series featured card player Bret Maverick and sometimes other family members, like brother Bart Maverick.

This show is what put the baby name Maverick on the map:

  • 1963: 14 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1962: 21 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1961: 26 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1960: 46 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1959: 61 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 989th]
  • 1958: 88 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 800th]
  • 1957: 33 baby boys named Maverick [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted
  • 1955: unlisted

The U.S. baby name data only includes names that were given to at least 5 U.S. babies (of one gender or the other) per year, so 1957 was the first year that more than five baby boys were named Maverick. In fact, so many boys were named Maverick that the name was one of the top debut names of the year. And it entered the top 1,000 for the very first time the following year.

(The show also gave a very big boost to the baby name Bret, and to variant spelling Brett. And it had an influence on a handful of female names, including Samantha and Tawney.)

Maverick in the movies

The character Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (played by Tom Cruise) from the movie "Top Gun" (1986)
Maverick from “Top Gun

Usage of the name stayed flat until the popular movie Top Gun was released in 1986. The film starred Tom Cruise as a navy pilot Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell.

  • 1988: 48 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1987: 44 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1986: 19 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1985: 16 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1984: 6 baby boys named Maverick

(Also around this time we see the debut of the baby name Cruise.)

The character Bret Maverick (played by Mel Gibson) from the movie "Maverick" (1994).
Bret Maverick from “Maverick

Another movie that may have added to the momentum was Maverick (1994), which starred Mel Gibson and was based on the original television series.

  • 1996: 167 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 843rd]
  • 1995: 148 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 910th]
  • 1994: 128 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 978th]
  • 1993: 101 baby boys named Maverick
  • 1992: 76 baby boys named Maverick

Maverick in sports

The name has really picked up steam in the last few years, perhaps due in part to the success of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, which made it to the finals during the 2005-06 season and won the finals in 2010-2011. (Texas was the state with the most baby Mavericks in both 2006 and in 2010, incidentally.)

Maverick in the future

Given the current trajectory, the name set to become increasingly popular in the next few years.

How high do you think it will go?

And, what do you think of the baby name Maverick?


Update, 5/30/2022: Look how high Maverick has climbed since this post went live in 2014!

Usage of the baby name Maverick in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Maverick

Here are the latest numbers (and rankings):

  • 2021: 6,548 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 47th]
  • 2020: 6,114 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 50th]
  • 2019: 5,754 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 58th]
  • 2018: 5,032 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 73rd]
  • 2017: 4,724 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 85th]
  • 2016: 2,956 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 139th]
  • 2015: 2,274 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 184th]
  • 2014: 1,878 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 206th]
  • 2013: 1,300 baby boys named Maverick [rank: 272nd]

Maverick reached the top 100 in 2017, then the top 50 just a few years later, in 2020. And with the newly released movie Top Gun: Maverick seeing early success at the theaters, who knows how high it could go.

Do you think it will reach the top 20? Top 10?

Sources: Maverick – Online Etymology Dictionary, Maverick, Samuel Augustus – The Handbook of Texas Online – TSHA

[Latest update: May 2022]

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