from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A laborer employed for temporary or unskilled jobs, as in an oil field.
  • noun A circus laborer.
  • noun A deck or wharf laborer, especially on the Mississippi River.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun See rouse-about.
  • noun A common wharf-laborer or deck-hand, originally one on the Mississippi or other western river.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Western U.S. A laborer, especially a deck hand, on a river steamboat, who moves the cargo, loads and unloads wood, and the like; in an opprobrious sense, a shiftless vagrant who lives by chance jobs.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a member of a ship's crew who performs manual labor


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • ROMANS: Look at the worst jobs, roustabout, which is for a worst job, it has the best name.

    CNN Transcript Jan 9, 2010 2010

  • ROMANS: Look at the worst jobs, roustabout, which is for a worst job, it has the best name.

    CNN Transcript Jan 10, 2010 2010

  • NEW YORK -- Being an actuary, calculating statistics to determine probability and risk, is the best job to have in 2010, while working on an oil rig as a roustabout is the worst, according to a study released on Tuesday.

    China Post Online - Taiwan , News , Taiwan newspaper 2010

  • A roustabout is a dangerous job that typically pays about US$31,000 a year, with high unemployment and a negative outlook for growth, the study said.

    China Post Online - Taiwan , News , Taiwan newspaper 2010

  • But what I love the most: also included at the bottom of the list are the job titles "roustabout" and "stevedore," which I admit I had to Google.

    Boing Boing 2010

  • Redford served as a "roustabout," an unskilled laborer who did little jobs around the rigs, until he was discovered sleeping in an oil tank he'd been assigned to clean.

    Eight Successful People Grateful That They Got Canned 2009

  • In the same town there lived a Negro, named Henry Smith, a well-known character, a kind of roustabout, who was generally considered a harmless, weak-minded fellow, not capable of doing any important work, but sufficiently able to do chores and odd jobs around the houses of the white people who cared to employ him.

    The Red Record Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States Ida B. Wells-Barnett 1896

  • Though, as always with a Decemberists album, you may want to have a lyric sheet and thesaurus handy just in case you get a word like "roustabout" thrown at you. 2009

  • By the way, Knight wants a camp hand, a kind of roustabout, who can cook -- a handy man, you know. "

    The Sky Pilot in No Man's Land Ralph Connor 1898

  • Of course, it must be remembered that along with such frivolous occupations I was trying to get work as wop, lumper, and roustabout.

    Chapter 25 2010


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  • A modest ambition, without a doubt,

    But realized now, so shout it out,

    For poor simple Fergus

    Has run to the circus

    To go on the road as a roustabout!

    February 24, 2016