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rough·​neck ˈrəf-ˌnek How to pronounce roughneck (audio)
: a rough or uncouth person
: a worker of an oil-well-drilling crew other than the driller


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: having the characteristics of or suitable for a roughneck

Examples of roughneck in a Sentence

Noun a town overrun by roughnecks a group of roughnecks like to hang out at the roadhouse and harass people Adjective their roughneck antics were amusing only if you were as drunk as they were
Recent Examples on the Web
The youth culture in evidence in his early novels is distinctly Texan and rural (and white): Cadillacs and roughnecks, Hank Williams songs on the jukebox at the pool hall, aimless drives down empty streets. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 18 Sep. 2023 Hanna’s immediate suspicions may resonate with one viewer, while another, like Liv, might want to give the roughnecks the benefit of the doubt. Miles Klee, Rolling Stone, 2 Oct. 2023 Over the past five years, Texas has added 2,800 jobs to support wind and solar power generation at the same time that the state has lost 44,000 oil and gas extraction jobs, in part because automation has allowed producers to drill more wells while employing fewer roughnecks. Heather Souvaine Horn, The New Republic, 12 May 2023 Armageddon—the 1998 movie, not the mythical battlefield—told the story of an asteroid headed straight for Earth, and a bunch of swaggering roughnecks sent in space shuttles to blow it up with a nuclear weapon. IEEE Spectrum, 23 Sep. 2022 Robert Bea, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of engineering and project management and systems, worked for years in the offshore oil industry, first as a roughneck on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell Oil and ultimately as director of Shell Oil’s offshore design group in New Orleans. Los Angeles Times, 5 Oct. 2021 Does a roughneck working on an oil rig need to be instructed to wear steel-toe boots? WSJ, 7 Mar. 2023 It’s set in Granite City, an everyday dystopia where Stallone lugs his body around with a reluctant roughneck shamble. Owen Gleiberman, Variety, 25 Aug. 2022 The family so epitomized the region’s hardscrabble ethos that Pipkin’s great-aunt, a folk-singing roughneck named Myra, is purported to be the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s Ma Joad. Grayson Haver Currin, Outside Online, 22 Dec. 2022
In reporting trips over miles and miles of Texas, to borrow a phrase from a classic song, The Times found a broad range of Texans, settling in a few representative places — a North Texas suburb, the roughneck hub of Odessa and the heart of Houston — to tell the story of a state in rapid transition. Robert Gebeloff, New York Times, 13 Nov. 2023 Overwatch’s latest short focused on McCree, the game’s popular, roughneck cowboy character. Julia Alexander, The Verge, 2 Nov. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'roughneck.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1906, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of roughneck was in 1834

Dictionary Entries Near roughneck

Cite this Entry

“Roughneck.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


: a rough person : rowdy
: a worker on a crew drilling oil wells

More from Merriam-Webster on roughneck

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