buck·a·roo also buck·er·oo (bŭk′ə-ro͞o’)
n. pl. buck·a·roos or buck·er·oos Western US See COWBOY(Cf. ↑cowboy).
[Alteration (perhaps influenced by BUCK(Cf. buck)1) of Spanish vaquero, from vaca, cow, from Latin vacca.]
Word History: The iconic figure of the cowboy has gone by many other names in American English, including buckaroo, cowhand, cowman, cowpoke, cowpuncher, vaquero, and waddy, and two of these words, buckaroo and vaquero, come from Spanish. In the early 1800s, Spain and Mexico had tried to increase settlement in the sparsely populated grazing lands that are now the American Southwest. English speakers from the United States began to venture out into this Spanish-speaking region too, and in the late 1820s and early 1830s, the words buckaroo and vaquero start to appear in English. From the point of view of etymology, buckaroo and vaquero are in fact the same word. In Spanish, vaquero simply means "a man who deals with cows"—that is, a cowboy. It is derived from the word vaca, "cow," by means of the suffix -ero. When vaquero was borrowed into English in southwest and central Texas, it kept the original Spanish spelling. In California, however, the Spanish word vaquero was Anglicized to buckaroo. (In Spanish, the letter v is pronounced like b, so this Anglicized spelling actually represents the sound of the Spanish word well. The change of a Spanish o, pronounced like English (ō) to an English oo in buckaroo can be seen in several other English words, such as calaboose and vamoose.) Craig M. Carver, noted American dialectologist and author of American Regional Dialects, points out that the two words vaquero and buckaroo also reflect cultural differences between cattlemen in Texas and California. The Texas vaquero was typically a bachelor who hired on with different outfits, while the California buckaroo usually stayed on the same ranch where he was born or had grown up, and raised his own family there.

Word Histories. 2014.

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