A pirate, especially one of the freebooters who preyed on Spanish shipping in the West Indies during the 17th century.
A ruthless speculator or adventurer.
Origin: French boucanier, from boucaner, to cure meat, from boucan, barbecue frame, of Tupian origin; akin to Tupi mukém, rack.
Word History: The Errol Flynn-like figure of the buccaneer pillaging the Spanish Main may seem less dashing if we realize that the term buccaneer corresponds to the word barbecuer. The first recorded use of the French word boucanier, which was borrowed into English, referred to a person on the islands of Hispaniola and Tortuga who hunted wild oxen and boars and smoked the meat in a barbecue frame known in French as a boucan. This French word came from a Tupi word meaning “a rack used for roasting or for storing things, or a racklike platform supporting a house.” The original barbecuers seem to have subsequently adopted a more remunerative way of life, piracy, which accounts for the new meaning given to the word. Buccaneer is recorded first in 1661 in its earlier sense in English; the sense we are familiar with is recorded in 1690.