Definition of roustabout in English:



  • 1An unskilled or casual labourer.

    • ‘You never know whether you're talking to a roustabout or someone with a PhD in physical science.’
    • ‘It's the place of choice for all sorts of hard-living roustabouts who come into town to blow off a little steam after long days, weeks or even months of toil in the mines and lumber camps.’
    • ‘I hear, the boss took on two new roustabouts this morning to help with the canvas crew.’
    • ‘He was a roustabout, he herded sheep, he was a streetcar motorman.’
    • ‘Marquez had worked in the business as a roustabout - ‘a flunky,’ he says - since he was a teenager paying his way through the Harvard of geosciences, the Colorado School of Mines.’
    1. 1.1 A labourer on an oil rig.
      • ‘This was a dangerous area, but the skilled roughnecks and the roustabouts went about their business with seamless teamwork.’
      • ‘The simple graphic, though it may perpetuate the hopes and expectations of unemployed roughnecks and roustabouts, masks a more complex story.’
      • ‘Rocky Mountain House has more than tripled in population, and that doesn't include the countless oil and gas roustabouts, drilling maintenance crews, surveyors and the like.’
      • ‘For somebody who has grown up with the stench of oil dripping from filthy laundry, surrounded by roustabouts and crane operators, I've spent surprisingly little time on rigs.’
      • ‘The bump-backs cascade down the hierarchy of skills and seniority; the roustabouts and roughnecks in lesser-skilled positions and typically of recent hire go walking.’
      • ‘During the interior secretary's tenure in the 1980s, he jumped to more lucrative work as a pumper, roughneck, and roustabout on Wyoming's oil wells.’
      • ‘To pay the bills, the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture graduate took a job as a North Sea roustabout, the labourer of the oil industry.’
      • ‘While there is no hardship pay for working offshore, entry-level roustabouts on the drilling rig still begin at about $30,000 per year.’
    2. 1.2North American A dock labourer or deckhand.
      • ‘A rig could be brought from Singapore or Perth and there would be opportunities for Hawke's Bay people to work on it as roustabouts and engineers.’
    3. 1.3North American A circus labourer.
      • ‘‘He was a roustabout with a traveling carnival,’ my grandmother had told me just before she had died.’
      • ‘The race quickly becomes a contest between Borghese's Italia and the Spyker, driven by a Dutch circus roustabout.’
      • ‘He had a rich and varied career, as fairground boxer, circus roustabout, cartoonist, poster designer, trades-union journal editor, television presenter, and towards the end of his life, psychotherapist.’
      • ‘Every one of the musicians in the orchestra have spent uncounted numbers of hours to become the fine, cohesive, interpretive group they are and you treat them like three-ring roustabouts.’
      • ‘In the days before her wedding, after college graduation, she finds herself being drawn into the classic ‘torrid affair’ with a roustabout at a carnival.’
      • ‘Few neighborhood rituals in Manhattan are more beguiling than to be present as roustabouts pump helium into the balloons that give such a childlike lift to the Macy's parade.’
    4. 1.4Australian, NZ
      variant spelling of rouseabout


Mid 19th century: from the verb roust.