AskDefine | Define roustabout

Dictionary Definition

roustabout n : a member of a ship's crew who performs manual labor [syn: deckhand]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. In the context of "mostly|US": an unskilled laborer, especially at an oilfield, at a circus or on a ship

Extensive Definition

A roustabout is a labourer typically performing temporary, unskilled work. The term has traditionally been used to refer to traveling-circus workers or oil rig workers. A variation in spelling, rouseabout (often abbreviated to 'Rousie'), is commonly used in Australia and New Zealand to refer to workers handling wool after it has been taken from the sheep's back during annual shearing operations
"Roustabout" is also an official classification of oil rig personnel. Roustabouts working in the North American oil fields typically perform various jobs requiring little training. However, they frequently turn out to be long-term employees and take on more difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs as they gain experience. Most go on to at least become roughnecks if they work for the oil rig company for more than a few months.

Popular Culture

The term was used in Disney's 1941 animated film Dumbo, during a musical scene, commonly perceived as racist, in which a group of all dark-skinned laborers pulled circus materials off the train for construction. Roustabout is a 1964 musical movie starring Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Freeman in a story set in a traveling carnival

See also

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

bakehead, black gang, blue-collar worker, boilerman, breadwinner, bungs, cabin boy, casual, casual laborer, chips, commissary steward, common laborer, complement, day laborer, deckhand, deckie, docker, dockhand, employee, factory worker, fireman, flunky, free lance, free-lancer, full-time worker, gun loader, gunner, hand, hospital steward, industrial worker, jobber, jobholder, laborer, laboring man, landing signalman, loader, longshoreman, mail orderly, menial, migrant, moiler, navigator, navvy, office temporary, oiler, operative, proletarian, purser, radio operator, salaried worker, self-employed person, servant, snip, snips, sparks, stevedore, steward, stewardess, stiff, stoker, temporary, toiler, torpedoman, wage earner, wage slave, wageworker, watch, wharf hand, worker, workgirl, workhand, working girl, workingman, workingwoman, workman, yeoman
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