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  1. a rough, coarse person; a tough.
  2. any laborer working on an oil-drilling rig.Compare roustabout(def 4).
verb (used without object)
  1. to work as a roughneck.

Origin of roughneck

An Americanism dating back to 1830–40; rough + neck
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for roughneck


noun slang
  1. a rough or violent person; thug
  2. a worker in an oil-drilling operation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for roughneck


also rough-neck, 1836, "rugged individual," from rough (adj.) + neck (n.). Original context is the Texas frontier, later adpoted to labor organization toughs. Specific sense of "oil rig worker" is recorded from 1917. Cf. redneck.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper