Definition of cowboy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈkouˌboi/


1A man, typically one on horseback, who herds and tends cattle, especially in the western US and as represented in westerns and novels: they are always playing cowboys and Indians
More example sentences
  • Near the heart of town, I spied a group of cowboys herding some cattle into a fenced-off pasture.
  • On working ranches in Colorado, guests can help with the cattle alongside the cowboys and cowgirls at work.
  • How odd it seemed to have once played cowboys and Indians on the same rocks, then warm and white in the afternoon sun.
2 informal A person who is reckless or careless, especially when driving an automobile.
Example sentences
  • I wanted to make certain that we were going about it correctly, and not employing cowboys on our business.
  • ‘It is not the case of a cowboy firm failing to contact the Environment Agency in order to cut costs,’ he said.
  • He also accused some motorists of behaving like ignoramuses and cowboys who put business in jeopardy.


[no object] North American informal
Work as a cowboy: Sonora, Mexico, where he learned to cowboy
More example sentences
  • Having shared the dangers of their trek on my first season cowboying, they assumed I would return.
  • After years of cowboying, he had been ready to settle into something that would keep him still the rest of his days.
  • During the ‘30s he cowboyed Sonora County's rough country of rimrocks, canyons and sotols for $30 a month.

Phrasal verbs

cowboy up

US informal Make a determined effort to overcome a formidable obstacle: Millar cowboyed up, but couldn’t he have flipped the Enrique grounder to Pedro?
More example sentences
  • This would be an open attempt to get them to thinking that they need to cowboy up and put me in my place.
  • The detective cowboys up to hunt down the mysterious marauder.
  • Even the Texans were able to cowboy up in holding the Dolphins' defense without a sack.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cow·boy

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