(Of uncertain origin. Probably a combination of mesteño [mestéjio], mestengo [mestérjgo], mestenco [mestérjko], and mostrenco [mostrérjko]. See accompanying explanation)
   1) Clark: 1800s. An untamed horse, or one that used to be tame, but has returned to the wild. The term originally referred to the horses brought to this continent by Spanish settlers, many of which escaped or were stolen by Indians and ended up running in wild herds in the West and Southwest. The origin of this term is disputed. One theory holds that mustang derives from mesteño, a Spanish term whose principal meaning is an animal (or thing) belonging to the Mesta, an association of owners of livestock (founded in 1273 by the Spanish government, according to Watts) that bred, fed, and sold their animals for their common good. A mesteño was an animal that had become separated from its owner and was considered to be the property of the entire Mesta. Although this term shows a semantic similarity to the English word, it is difficult to justify the nasal and velar consonants in the derived form. Three more likely sources are mestenco, mestengo, and mostrenco, all of which mean 'having no known owner' (according to the DRAE, mestengo refers especially to animals). The first two terms probably derived from mesteño, and the third is itself an adaptation of mestenco (with influence from the verb mostrar 'to show,' since stray animals had to be presented to the Mesta). It is likely that the English mustang derived from one of these three terms or from a combination of the three.
   Alternate forms: mestang, mestaña, mestengo, mesteño.
   2) Carlisle: 1929. As a verb, to hunt mustangs with the intention of snaring and domesticating them.
   3) By extension from (1), a mustang is also a person who is uncouth or unaccustomed to "civilized" society.

Cowboy Talk. A Dictionary of Spanish Terms. . 2013.

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