[ roust-uh-bout ]
/ ˈraʊst əˌbaʊt /


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

Origin of roustabout

An Americanism dating back to 1865–70; roust + about Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for roustabout

British Dictionary definitions for roustabout


/ (ˈraʊstəˌbaʊt) /


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper