Roustabout vs. Roughneck

By Jaxson

  • Roustabout

    Roustabout (Australia/New Zealand English: rouseabout) is an occupational term. Traditionally, it referred to a worker with broad-based, non-specific skills. In particular, it was used to describe show or circus workers who handled materials for construction on fairgrounds. In modern times it is applied to rural employment, such as those assisting sheep shearing, and positions in the oil industry.

  • Roughneck

    Roughneck is a term for a person whose occupation is hard manual labor. The term applies across a number of industries, but is most commonly associated with the workers on a drilling rig. The ideal of the hard-working, tough roughneck has been adopted by several sports teams who use the phrase as part of their name or logo.

    Originally the term was used in the traveling carnivals of 19th-century United States, almost interchangeably with roustabout. By the 1930s the terms had transferred to the oil drilling industry. In the United Kingdom’s oil industry starting in the 1970s, roughneck specifically meant those who worked on the drill floor of a drilling rig handling specialised drilling equipment for drilling and pressure controls. In practice, these workers ranged from unskilled to highly skilled, depending subjectively on the individual worker’s aptitude and experience. By contrast, a roustabout would perform general labor, such as loading and unloading cargo from crane baskets and assisting welders, mechanics, electricians and other skilled workers. The word roughneck was in use in the U.S. oil drilling industry even earlier and had a similar meaning.

  • Roustabout (noun)

    an unskilled laborer, especially at an oilfield, at a circus or on a ship, 19

  • Roughneck (noun)

    Someone with rough manners; a rowdy or uncouth person. from 19th c.

  • Roughneck (noun)

    An ironworker; a dirty or low-paid worker, a labourer. from 20th c.

  • Roughneck (noun)

    A labourer on an oil rig. from 20th c.

  • Roughneck (verb)

    To work as a laborer on an oil rig


Roustabout Illustrations


Leave a Comment