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 in which a group of laborers pulled circus materials off the train for construction. "Roustabout" is also a 1964 musical movie starring Elvis Presley, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joan Freeman in a story set in a traveling carnival. Additionally, the term is used in the song "The Mariner's Revenge Song", by The Decemberists.

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  • Roustabout — Roust a*bout , n. [Etymol. uncertain.] 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. [Western U.S.] [1913 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • roustabout — deck hand, wharf worker, 1868, perhaps from ROUST (Cf. roust) + ABOUT (Cf. about). But another theory connects it to British dialect rousing rough, shaggy, a word associated perhaps with rooster …   Etymology dictionary

  • roustabout — *worker, workman, workingman, laborer, mechanic, artisan, operative, hand, craftsman, handicraftsman …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • roustabout — ► NOUN ▪ an unskilled or casual labourer, especially a labourer on an oil rig. ORIGIN from ROUST(Cf. ↑roust) …   English terms dictionary

  • roustabout — [rous′tə bout΄] n. [ ROUST + ABOUT ] ☆ 1. a deckhand or waterfront laborer ☆ 2. a laborer in a circus who helps set up the tents, etc. ☆ 3. an unskilled or transient laborer, as on a ranch or in an oil field …   English World dictionary

  • roustabout — [[t]ra͟ʊstəbaʊt[/t]] roustabouts N COUNT A roustabout is a unskilled worker, especially one who works in a port or at an oil well. [AM] …   English dictionary

  • roustabout — noun Date: 1868 1. a. deckhand b. longshoreman 2. an unskilled or semiskilled laborer especially in an oil field or refinery 3. a circus worker who erects and dismantles tents, cares for the grounds, and handles animals and equipment 4. a person… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Roustabout — …   Википедия

  • roustabout — /rowst euh bowt /, n. 1. a wharf laborer or deck hand, as on the Mississippi River. 2. an unskilled laborer who lives by odd jobs. 3. a circus laborer who helps in setting up and taking down the tents and in caring for the animals, equipment, and …   Universalium

  • roustabout — noun an unskilled laborer, especially at an oilfield, at a circus or on a ship …   Wiktionary