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cow·​boy ˈkau̇-ˌbȯi How to pronounce cowboy (audio)
: one who tends cattle or horses
especially : a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand
: a rodeo performer
: one having qualities (such as recklessness, aggressiveness, or independence) popularly associated with cowboys: such as
: a reckless driver
: a business or businessperson operating in an uncontrolled or unregulated manner


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cowboyed; cowboying; cowboys

intransitive verb

: to work as a cowboy
cowboyed in Texas and Oklahoma

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

Noun 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. Verb He cowboyed in Texas and Oklahoma.
Recent Examples on the Web
Rodeo Queens helped shape the culture of these events alongside cowboys and cowgirls, like the ones Beyoncé paid homage to in 2021 with Ivy Park Rodeo. Larisha Paul, Rolling Stone, 28 Mar. 2024 Stop into town to catch a show at the WYO Theater, watch a polo match at the Big Horn Equestrian Center, or see the cowboys and cowgirls show off their moves at the Sheridan County Rodeo. Perri Ormont Blumberg, Travel + Leisure, 27 Mar. 2024 The former math teacher and rodeo cowboy now travel across the country searching for goods to bring back to Pawhuska. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 19 Mar. 2024 Move over, cowboys and cowgirls: The Kimpton Harper Fort Worth has ushered in a new era of style. Kim Westerman, Forbes, 29 Feb. 2024 Being Black and a cowgirl, or a cowboy, is nothing new. Lynnette Nicholas, Essence, 25 Mar. 2024 However, unlike Sheridan's other shows, the theme isn't centered around modern-day cowboys or ranch hands — though wide open spaces and businessmen warring with politicians certainly play a part. Gillian Telling, Peoplemag, 14 Mar. 2024 Her debut, Metal Storm, is a big-budget space Western about a cowboy and alien whose intense romance ends abruptly. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 Mar. 2024 Ever since the model began dating Adan Banuelos, a professional cowboy, earlier this year, Hadid has been leaning into a more western look: She’s slipped into pieces like fringed chaps, leather jackets and of course, cowboy hats. Christian Allaire, Vogue, 13 Mar. 2024
From Bambi blonde to cowboy copper and everything in between, Vogue breaks down some of the hottest fall hair colors to try now, with help from industry experts. Hannah Coates, Vogue, 5 Oct. 2023 That was her way of telling me to cowboy up. IEEE Spectrum, 9 Sep. 2022 Mask on, cowboy up. Sarah Blaskovich, Dallas News, 16 Sep. 2020 There is an inherent if slight risk, from precipitation to critters and privacy-oblivious creeps to cowboy camping; witnessing the other half of a day, or of nature itself, is a righteous reward. Grayson Haver Currin, Outside Online, 27 July 2021 Encompassing 37 pieces for men and women, the collection includes just about every western-wear staple from Yellowstone Dutton Ranch jackets to cowboy work shirts. Oscar Hartzog, Rolling Stone, 17 May 2022 The Angels entered the game with more homers than any team in baseball besides the Toronto Blue Jays, providing many opportunities to cowboy up in the dugout. Steve Hensonassistant Sports Editor, Los Angeles Times, 26 Apr. 2022 The Book Festival makes a point of including all types of work, from traditional novels to cowboy poetry. Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Sep. 2021 The church and its magnetic leader, a descendant of pioneering pastors who preached to cowboy stars from a bygone Hollywood age, seem to revel in their contrarian role. Los Angeles Times, 8 Nov. 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cowboy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1623, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1925, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of cowboy was in 1623

Dictionary Entries Near cowboy

Cite this Entry

“Cowboy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: one who tends cattle or horses
especially : a mounted cattle-ranch worker

More from Merriam-Webster on cowboy

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