Definition of roustabout in English:



  • 1An unskilled or casual labourer.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I hear, the boss took on two new roustabouts this morning to help with the canvas crew.’
    • ‘You never know whether you're talking to a roustabout or someone with a PhD in physical science.’
    • ‘He was a roustabout, he herded sheep, he was a streetcar motorman.’
    1. 1.1A labourer on an oil rig.
      • ‘The simple graphic, though it may perpetuate the hopes and expectations of unemployed roughnecks and roustabouts, masks a more complex story.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This was a dangerous area, but the skilled roughnecks and the roustabouts went about their business with seamless teamwork.’
      • ‘While there is no hardship pay for working offshore, entry-level roustabouts on the drilling rig still begin at about $30,000 per year.’
      • ‘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.’
    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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The race quickly becomes a contest between Borghese's Italia and the Spyker, driven by a Dutch circus roustabout.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 1.4Australian, NZ
      variant spelling of rouseabout


Mid 19th century: from the verb roust.