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[ruhf-nek] /ˈrʌfˌnɛk/
a rough, coarse person; a tough.
any laborer working on an oil-drilling rig.
Compare roustabout (def 4).
verb (used without object)
to work as a roughneck.
Origin of roughneck
An Americanism dating back to 1830-40; rough + neck Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for roughneck
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He could almost hear passersby say "goody-good" and "roughneck."

    A Boy Knight

    Martin J. (Martin Jerome) Scott
  • I copped it on the high seas—flotsam and jetsam,' says the 'roughneck.'

  • But I expect one cabaret is about like another in these roughneck towns.

    The Heart of Canyon Pass Thomas K. Holmes
  • I kind of gloried in being a roughneck, I reckon, he added with a wry smile.

    The Heart of Canyon Pass Thomas K. Holmes
  • It was mighty slow, an' I'm still a roughneck; but I'm gettin' on.

    The Mucker Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • "Afraid I'm rather a roughneck in that respect," said Dalgetty.

    The Sensitive Man Poul William Anderson
  • Then the roughneck kicks because he got a belly full of Yukon.

    The Yukon Trail

    William MacLeod Raine
  • When a roughneck does something for you, it's proper to hand him some of your loose change.

    Poor Man's Rock Bertrand W. Sinclair
  • And as long as youre rooming with me—which I hope wont be long—Ill ask you to cut out that roughneck stuff.

    Full-Back Foster

    Ralph Henry Barbour
British Dictionary definitions for roughneck


noun (slang)
a rough or violent person; thug
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
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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
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Slang definitions & phrases for roughneck



  1. A thug and brawler; plug-ugly, tough: The so-called roughneck is hit with everything (1836+)
  2. A worker or laborer, esp in a circus or on an oil-drilling rig (1917+)

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The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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