Worker, workman, workingman, laborer, craftsman, handicraftsman, mechanic, artisan, hand, operative, roustabout can all mean one who earns his living by labor, especially by manual labor.
Worker , the most comprehensive and least specific of these terms, applies to someone who earns his living by work of hand or brain.
Workman does not imply a specific kind of work, but in all but its extended senses it commonly implies manual labor. It may be applied to one engaged to do a specified piece of work or to help in the construction of something requiring many workers; it may also be applied to a skilled or to an unskilled worker.
Usually it implies opposition to employer , or manager , or foreman .
In extended use the term is applicable to a worker whether he works with his hands or with his mind provided he makes, constructs, invents, or creates something.
Workingman is more restricted in its range of application than workman , and is, in spite of varying legal definitions, applied commonly to a wage earner who at an hourly, daily, or weekly rate pursues a trade (as carpentry, masonry, or plumbing) or is similarly employed in a mercantile, manufacturing, or industrial establishment as distinguished especially from an industrialist, a merchant, and a professional man.
Laborer commonly designates one whose work demands more strength and physical exertion than skill (as on a construction or excavation job).
Craftsman and handicraftsman basically apply to one who is a skilled workman in a craft or handicraft (see craft handicraft under TRADE 1 ). Unlike the foregoing terms these two are common in general use and may apply as freely with reference to an avocation as to an employment.
But the former may apply distinctively to a worker who is a competent technician or who is versed in the technique of his art, profession, or trade. It is especially used of artists, writers, playwrights, or skilled artificers.
Mechanic applies specifically to a workman skilled in the repair or adjustment of machines.
Artisan is more often opposed to artist (for this sense see under ARTIST 1 ) than employed as a designation of a particular type of workman. When applied to workingmen as such and without thought of opposition to artist , the term comes very close to craftsman and is commonly applied to one who is skilled in a trade (as carpentry, weaving, or shoemaking) that involves learned skills and their appropriate application as well as physical labor.
Hand is applied to one of a crew, a force, or a gang of workmen or sometimes to an owner’s or proprietor’s helper or assistant.
Operative , a general term suggestive of modern industrial conditions, applies to a workman employed in a mill, a manufactory, or an industry utilizing machines.
Roustabout usually adds to laborer distinguishing implications of muscular fitness for exceedingly heavy work, roughness, and, often, migratory habits.