rough·​neck | \ ˈrəf-ˌnek How to pronounce roughneck (audio) \

Definition of roughneck

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a rough or uncouth person
b : rowdy, tough
2 : a worker of an oil-well-drilling crew other than the driller



Definition of roughneck (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the characteristics of or suitable for a roughneck

Keep scrolling for more

Examples of roughneck in a Sentence


a town overrun by roughnecks a group of roughnecks like to hang out at the roadhouse and harass people


their roughneck antics were amusing only if you were as drunk as they were
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Booms are great for those riding them, like roughnecks and tech workers. Kate Galbraith,, "How Silicon Valley resembles the Texas oil patch," 7 Aug. 2019 As the roughneck in love with Harry's frisky daughter, Ben Affleck flexes resolute muscle with his heady performance. Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Armageddon': THR's 1998 Review," 1 July 2019 Like many cities at this time, Baltimore had its share of roughnecks, pick pockets, petty thieves, charlatans and card sharks. John Wilmerding, WSJ, "A Winning Group of Cheaters," 28 Sep. 2018 Ninth-century Britain is a battleground of invading roughneck Vikings and the devoutly Christian Anglo-Saxons trying to hold them off. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "The Last Kingdom," 21 Nov. 2018 Three years later, the hill and 2 square miles of the surrounding plains incorporated as the city of Signal Hill, a settlement of roughnecks and wildcatters, an oil boomtown during the time when California produced a quarter of the world’s oil. Scott Garner,, "Neighborhood Spotlight: Signal Hill keeps progress in view without blocking out its oil town past," 22 June 2018 There are fewer roughnecks, as my old landlord had warned, to trash the place. Longreads, "Life on the Oil Frontier," 23 Apr. 2018 Later, Dollens worked as a roughneck in the oil fields. Rivka Galchen, The New Yorker, "The Teachers’ Strike and the Democratic Revival in Oklahoma," 4 June 2017 Somebody’s oil worker boyfriend might trash the place; indeed, the last round of roughnecks already have. Longreads, "Life on the Oil Frontier," 23 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Overwatch’s latest short focused on McCree, the game’s popular, roughneck cowboy character. Julia Alexander, The Verge, "Blizzard’s stunning cinematics stole the show at BlizzCon 2018," 2 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'roughneck.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of roughneck


1834, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1906, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about roughneck

Statistics for roughneck

Last Updated

22 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for roughneck

The first known use of roughneck was in 1834

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for roughneck



English Language Learners Definition of roughneck

chiefly US, informal
: someone who behaves in a rough, rude, or aggressive way
: someone who works on an oil rig or at an oil well


rough·​neck | \ ˈrəf-ˌnek How to pronounce roughneck (audio) \

Kids Definition of roughneck

: a rough aggressive person

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on roughneck

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with roughneck

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for roughneck

Spanish Central: Translation of roughneck

Nglish: Translation of roughneck for Spanish Speakers

Comments on roughneck

What made you want to look up roughneck? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!