cow·​boy | \ ˈkau̇-ˌbȯi How to pronounce cowboy (audio) \

Definition of cowboy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : one who tends cattle or horses especially : a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand
2 : a rodeo performer
3 : one having qualities (such as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys: such as
a : a reckless driver
b : a business or businessperson operating in an uncontrolled or unregulated manner


cowboyed; cowboying; cowboys

Definition of cowboy (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to work as a cowboy cowboyed in Texas and Oklahoma

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Synonyms for cowboy

Synonyms: Noun

buckaroo (also buckeroo), cowhand, cowman, cowpoke, cowpuncher, waddy (or waddie) [West], wrangler

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Did You Know?

In the American West, a horseman skilled at handling cattle is called a cowboy. From ca.1820, cowboys were employed in small numbers on Texas ranches. After the Civil War, their numbers rapidly multiplied as cattle-raising evolved into a lucrative industry throughout the western territories. Cowboys rounded up and branded the cattle, kept watch over the herd, and drove those ready for market to railroad towns. As the agricultural frontier moved west, the open range was transformed into farms, and by 1890 cowboys had been forced to settle on ranches. The romance of their image lives on in American folklore and through movies and television.

Examples of cowboy in a Sentence


a movie about cowboys in the old West He worked for several years as a cowboy on a ranch in Texas. We've got a bunch of risk-taking cowboys running this project.


He cowboyed in Texas and Oklahoma.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Today, some African Americans still identify as cowboys. Nadra Nittle, Vox, "Lil Nas X isn’t an anomaly — black people have always been a part of country music," 5 June 2019 There were guests dressed as sparkling midnight cowboys, elegant wedding crashers, and cat lovers. Max Maeckler, Vogue, "Yoox and Toiletpaper Magazine Sent Out 7 Different Dress Codes For a Rager Dubbed the “Confusion Party”," 12 Apr. 2019 Illustration: Laura Kammermann Michael Alan Chance Green, who worked on a ranch as a cowboy, was obsessed with professional wrestler and entertainer Terry Funk. Zusha Elinson, WSJ, "Armed and Dangerous: How the ATF Retrieves Guns From Banned Buyers," 19 Feb. 2019 Once there, we were greeted wordlessly by some Navajo cowboys and paired up with our mounts, mine a paint gelding with a wild look in his eyes. Guy Trebay, Condé Nast Traveler, "In the Heart of Navajo Lands," 19 Oct. 2018 As a kid, Wise loved to dress as a cowboy, in no small part because of the head-gear. Linda Immediato, Los Angeles Magazine, "How a Former Newspaper Photographer Became One of L.A.’s Most Sought-After Hat Makers," 13 Apr. 2018 Tasked with revitalizing the historic brand, the Belgian designer found joy in reimagining Western fashion tropes, like the delicate piping of a men’s cowboy shirt or the fluttering hem of a gingham prairie skirt. Monica Kim, Vogue, "Penultimate Is a New American Fashion Fantasy, Written By a Chinese Immigrant," 26 Mar. 2019 The Oscar-winning film delved into the tragic tale of two cowboys who fall in love and starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger. Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Seattle Times, "‘Jurassic Park,’ ‘Shining’ added to National Film Registry," 12 Dec. 2018 This is a luxury car for the horse set or for suburban corporate cowboys. Sean Gallagher, Ars Technica, "The RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab fuses “luxury” and “pickup truck”," 21 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Sam Hunt cowboys up Sam Hunt brought the party with him Friday night. Cindy Watts And Adam Tamburin, USA TODAY, "Friday at CMA Music Festival: Blake Shelton, Kelsea Ballerini," 10 June 2017 Sam Hunt cowboys up Sam Hunt brought the party with him Friday night. Cindy Watts And Adam Tamburin, USA TODAY, "Friday at CMA Music Festival: Blake Shelton, Kelsea Ballerini," 10 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cowboy.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of cowboy


1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1925, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for cowboy

Last Updated

10 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for cowboy

The first known use of cowboy was in 1623

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More Definitions for cowboy



English Language Learners Definition of cowboy

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a man who rides a horse and whose job is to take care of cows or horses especially in the western U.S.
: a man who performs in a rodeo
usually disapproving : someone who has qualities that are commonly associated with the cowboys in movies especially : someone who does things that other people consider foolish and dangerous



English Language Learners Definition of cowboy (Entry 2 of 2)

US : to work as a cowboy


cow·​boy | \ ˈkau̇-ˌbȯi How to pronounce cowboy (audio) \

Kids Definition of cowboy

: a man or boy who works on a ranch or performs at a rodeo

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More from Merriam-Webster on cowboy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with cowboy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for cowboy

Spanish Central: Translation of cowboy

Nglish: Translation of cowboy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cowboy for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cowboy

Comments on cowboy

What made you want to look up cowboy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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