We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Roughneck?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Practical Adult Insights, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The term roughneck is given to identify an oil field worker. Used to describe a hardworking individual, the slang name roughneck has been applied to many occupations since the early 1800s before being identified as the predominant term for oil industry workers. Given the commonly-understood grit and fortitude of the roughneck, the name has been adopted by several professional sporting teams to add a bit of the common man and hard work ethic typically associated with the oil derrick worker. When used as slang for a person or group of persons outside of the oil industry, the term is commonly directed towards the dregs of society, or troubled and violent persons as well as those commonly thought to occupy a space among the lowest levels of society.

While many oil field workers are proud to be classified as roughnecks, the term has not always been one of endearment. Stemming from the earliest meaning, the term roughneck was quite near to an insult. Placed upon traveling carnival workers and vagrants, anyone tagged with the title of roughneck was a person to be carefully watched and even avoided, if possible. Associated with the term roustabout, a roughneck was a person who performed extreme manual labor, often for little wages, and typically had no ties to the community in which he worked. Eventually, in the early to mid 1930s, the term was attached to the oil industry, where it took on an almost status symbol property and was a source of pride for many workers.

While the term given to workers on an oil rig is seen as a type of identifier and lends a level of status to the position, it is generally applied to only those skilled and unskilled workers directly involved with connecting the drilling pipe or performing other duties on the derrick floor. Workers united under the term roughneck can also be divided into smaller sub-group identifiers typically pertaining to the type of job the worker performs. Titles such as tool pusher, driller and motorman are just a few of the more descriptive titles given to those who work in the drilling towers of the oil fields.

Sports teams have adopted the title to add a sense of personality to the team in sports like professional hockey, lacrosse and soccer. Even the Rubbermaid® corporation has used the term to identify the strongest garbage bag and containers in their lineup. Originally used to identify the lowest element of society, the name is now commonly used to identify those of great strength and stature among the working class.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon257595 — On Mar 27, 2012

For anyone looking to become a roughneck, you may find what I have to say useful.

Look for roustabout positions; it will give you experience to move up to roughneck, and the majority of jobs are located in: Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas.

Make sure you are physically ready. You will carry 50-80 pounds frequently.

If you are working eight hours a day at your current job, see if you can work twelve. This will prepare you for the average oil field shift.

Eat protein and carbs. Drink a protein shake on whatever down time you get. Make sure to stay hydrated.

Good luck. Don't quit. Good things come to those who work hard and endure.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Practical Adult Insights, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.