cowboy


cowboy
   A man who is employed by a ranch to care for grazing cattle. The origin of the term is a matter of some discussion. The first cowboys of the American West were the Mexican vaqueros. It is likely that the term cowboy, like its synonym buckaroo, derived from vaquero. The fact that the earliest cowboys were the Mexican herders and that cowboy is so similar to vaquero in its formation lends credence to this theory. The use of "boy" in the term rather than "man" may be explained by the fact that it was originally used (before the Civil War) to refer only to young, inexperienced drovers who herded cattle. It may also have been a derisive or condescending term, similar to the use of 'boy' as a form of address (from whites to black males) in the Deep South. By the 1870s, cowboy became a general term to refer to anyone who tended cattle. Somewhat later (after the 1880s), the term came to connote a wild or uncouth individual. For instance, the Clanton gang, who battled the Earps, are sometimes referred to as such. The term cowboy has become widespread in English and is used extensively as an attributive adjective. Its usage today frequently connotes an impulsive individual who, through a show of force, attempts to resolve a conflict.

Cowboy Talk. A Dictionary of Spanish Terms. . 2013.

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