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See more synonyms for roustabout on Thesaurus.com
  1. a wharf laborer or deck hand, as on the Mississippi River.
  2. an unskilled laborer who lives by odd jobs.
  3. a circus laborer who helps in setting up and taking down the tents and in caring for the animals, equipment, and grounds.
  4. any unskilled laborer working in an oil field.Compare roughneck(def 2).
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Origin of roustabout

An Americanism dating back to 1865–70; roust + about
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for roustabout

grunt, worker, drudge, peon, hand, hireling, operative, workingman, workman, farmhand, workingwoman, workwoman

Examples from the Web for roustabout

Historical Examples of roustabout

  • From management to roustabout there are common ties of interest.

    David Lannarck, Midget

    George S. Harney

  • I want a slush-bucket and a brush; I'm only fit for a roustabout.

    Life On The Mississippi, Complete

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • This for the feet, or the head, of the first roustabout that shows himself!

  • He encountered the hunter, Deming, and asked after the roustabout.

    A Man to His Mate

    J. Allan Dunn

  • He had four hours off, and he meant to make an opportunity of talking to the roustabout.

    A Man to His Mate

    J. Allan Dunn

British Dictionary definitions for roustabout


  1. an unskilled labourer on an oil rig
  2. Australian another word for rouseabout
  3. US and Canadian a labourer in a circus or fairground
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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 roustabout


"deck hand, wharf worker," 1868, perhaps from roust + about. But another theory connects it to British dialect rousing "rough, shaggy," a word associated perhaps with rooster. With extended senses in U.S., including "circus hand" (1931); "manual laborer on an oil rig" (1948).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper