The word "maverick" gets tossed freely about by the media as applied to John McCain and now his running mate (hmm, perhaps a better term is needed, lest bigamy charges be rumored), Sarah Palin. Google points to 413,000 references to the two of them and the "M" word.
But going old school for a moment, a maverick was an unbranded animal found on the open range. It is believed that the term originated with a Texas lawyer named Colonel Samuel Maverick. He purchased a herd of cattle but failed to ensure that they were branded. As a result these unbranded cattle in Texas became known as mavericks. Later this term spread to other parts of America. Cattleman in the American West took the view that they had the right to take possession of mavericks they found on the open range. Said differently, these cattle were made into someone's property.
Using the current "modern" meaning, a maverick is someone who exhibits great independence in thought and action. Other synonyms for that are loose cannon, dissident, dissenter, bohemian, loner, rebel, heretic, radical, iconoclast, and irregular.
Why does the press insist on berating the poor man this way--damn "maverick" media.