Definition of cowboy in English:



  • 1(especially in the western US) a man who herds and tends cattle, performing much of his work on horseback.

    ‘they are always playing cowboys and Indians’
    • ‘He could be the last real cowboy the movies will ever see.’
    • ‘He is the only son of a professional rodeo cowboy, stuntman, actor and Marine Corp. veteran.’
    • ‘By no means are cowboys the only great thing about these United States.’
    • ‘What he wanted, though, was to be an American cowboy.’
    • ‘One long-held popular belief is that cowboys and Indians are two distinct categories.’
    • ‘What do a man on an assembly line in a New York car factory and a cowboy in Montana have in common?’
    • ‘A cowboy rides into town and stops at the saloon for a drink.’
    • ‘On working ranches in Colorado, guests can help with the cattle alongside the cowboys and cowgirls at work.’
    • ‘And I used to play, you know, running around with guns, cowboys and Indians, in the garden, like all kids did.’
    • ‘Most notable among these were two series of bronzes depicting traditional Blackfeet culture and professional rodeo cowboys.’
    • ‘Randolph Scott, on the other hand, was the ruggedly handsome Texan cowboy.’
    • ‘But are Americans ready for a serious movie about love between gay cowboys?’
    • ‘When I was a kid, I would play cowboys and Indians out back.’
    • ‘She hadn't counted on a young cowboy riding up and seeing her there.’
    • ‘How odd it seemed to have once played cowboys and Indians on the same rocks, then warm and white in the afternoon sun.’
    • ‘The President demonstrated that he was a serious and thoughtful man, and not the Texan cowboy of tabloid cartoons.’
    • ‘Would that cowboy in 1851 have a holster that looks like that?’
    • ‘He was the son of Tex Ritter, one of America's favorite singing cowboys.’
    • ‘Indeed he often took hours to get home in the evenings, playing cowboys and Indians with his friends.’
    • ‘Near the heart of town, I spied a group of cowboys herding some cattle into a fenced-off pasture.’
    • ‘His restless intellectualism curiously mirrors the expansive lives of the nomads and Australian cowboys he so much admires.’
    • ‘Today's cowboys can trace their roots back to long trail drives and the following round-up.’
    cattleman, cowhand, cowman, cowherd, herder, herdsman, drover, stockman, rancher
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  • 2British informal A dishonest or careless person in business, especially an unqualified one.

    as modifier ‘cowboy coach firms are alleged to have flouted safety rules’
    • ‘A commitment to bar cowboys from the financial arena was behind the tough investor protection laws.’
    • ‘The organization warned of dotcom cowboys making up fictitious buyers to pressure businesses into signing up.’
    • ‘Europeans are so much more civilised than the trigger-happy cowboys across the pond.’
    • ‘They are ‘taking the gloves off’ when it comes to dealing with bogus businesses and cowboy tradesmen.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘I wanted to make certain that we were going about it correctly, and not employing cowboys on our business.’
    • ‘He dropped out to pursue a career as a model and was offered a part as a cowboy surfer in a US sitcom.’
    • ‘Victims have described the cowboy car impounders as ‘swarthy and threatening’.’
    • ‘The problem is that cowboys like this give legitimate piercers/tattooists a bad name.’
    • ‘The domain name registration business has more cowboys than Texas.’
    • ‘Which John Wayne will the cowboy President play?’
    • ‘We need our renegade cowboy president out of office’
    • ‘Elderly people were targeted by doorstep tricksters and cowboys charging extortionate sums for gardening work.’
    • ‘The company was collared as part of a crackdown on cowboy limo firms with little regard for rules, regulations and passenger safety.’
    • ‘Someone had re-roofed one chamber, a real cowboy job.’
    • ‘The county's trading standards department has launched the site as part of a crackdown on cowboy firms.’
    • ‘A former Salvation Army volunteer who preached Christian values has been exposed as a cheating cowboy builder.’
    • ‘The elderly continue to be preyed upon by cowboys and other fraudsters.’
    • ‘"We are not cowboy builders just there for a quick buck.’
    • ‘He accepted JM Enterprises was not a cowboy company and had usually taken great care.’
    cheat, swindler, fraudster, trickster, charlatan, scoundrel, rogue, rascal, unscrupulous operator
    View synonyms


[no object]North American
  • Work as a cowboy.

    • ‘Having shared the dangers of their trek on my first season cowboying, they assumed I would return.’
    • ‘But before that, I'm going to go out and do a little cowboying.’
    • ‘During the ‘30s he cowboyed Sonora County's rough country of rimrocks, canyons and sotols for $30 a month.’
    • ‘After years of cowboying, he had been ready to settle into something that would keep him still the rest of his days.’
    • ‘That horse that that kid has, they are totally responsible for it, to feed, to groom, and that's the horse they learn to cowboy on.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • cowboy up

    • Make a determined effort to overcome an obstacle or deal with a difficult situation.

      ‘if the recount votes aren't to his liking, he still needs to cowboy up and let the voters' will be heard’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Both sides need to cowboy up.’
      • ‘But a man, she thought, was supposed to endure pain, cowboy up, and not bitch about it all day long.’