roust·​about | \ ˈrau̇-stə-ˌbau̇t How to pronounce roustabout (audio) \

Definition of roustabout

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 with no permanent home or regular occupation also : one who stirs up trouble

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Synonyms for roustabout


docker [chiefly British], dockhand, dockworker, longshoreman, rouster, stevedore

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Did You Know?

Circus roustabouts are most commonly associated with circus animals, of course, but they also have a connection with game birds, at least in terms of etymology. "Roustabout" comes from "roust," which is an alteration of "rouse," a verb from Middle English that originally meant "to shake the feathers" (as in the way a bird might ruffle its feathers or shake its plumage when it is settling down or grooming itself). "Rouse," which today is a synonym of "awaken," also formerly meant "to cause to break from cover," a sense that may have influenced the modern meaning of "roust": "to drive (as from bed) roughly or unceremoniously."

Examples of roustabout in a Sentence

sought work as a roustabout on the city's seedy waterfront

Recent Examples on the Web

Still, travelers keep coming — motorcyclists, desert roustabouts, lost families. Los Angeles Times, "Gold Point, Nev., has a population of 6. One of them runs the inn. It’s not exactly his calling," 5 Aug. 2019 Linda Leto Head, Lone Star College senior associate vice chancellor, external and employer relations, said they are accredited by the International Association of Drilling Contractors for its oil and gas drilling floorhand-roustabout program. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Education, training crucial to energy industry success," 8 July 2018 Other opportunities include administrative and executive assistants, accountants, truck drivers, crane operators, cyber security professionals, traditional floor hands and roustabouts, said Head. Valerie Sweeten, Houston Chronicle, "Education, training crucial to energy industry success," 8 July 2018 The Showmen's League Of America commemorates the 1918 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train disaster which killed 86 circus performers and roustabouts and injured 127, at Showman's Rest in Wood Lawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Ill., on Thursday, May 5, 2018. Will Higgins, Indianapolis Star, "The truths of the circus train crash of 1918 are more horrifying than myths," 20 June 2018 The legacy: Doc Laborde started as a roustabout on an oil rig. Contributing Writer,, "He was considered the father of the offshore oil industry. Can you name him?," 16 May 2018 As the afternoon grew warmer, the roustabouts (how often does one get to use that word?) raised the lower edges of the tents to let in some air. Andrew Marantz, The New Yorker, "Please Don’t Call On Me, Mr. Ringmaster!," 25 Dec. 2017 The suspension, even with its rear torsion-beam setup, dips a shoulder to bite cleanly into corners and roustabout fun. Mark Maynard,, "2018 Hyundai Elantra GT: Subtle slyness," 6 Oct. 2017 Where: Roustabouts Theatre at Diversionary, 4545 Park Blvd. James Hebert,, "'Withering Heights' a supremely silly ode to Brontë," 22 June 2017

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

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First Known Use of roustabout

1860, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Roussin's salt






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Time Traveler for roustabout

The first known use of roustabout was in 1860

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English Language Learners Definition of roustabout

chiefly US : a worker in an oil field, at a circus, etc., whose job requires strength but little skill

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involving a confidence or trust

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