- Approximately; nearly: The interview lasted about an hour.
- Almost: The job is about done.
- To a reversed position or direction: Turn about and walk away slowly.
- In no particular direction: wandering about with no place to go.
- All around; on every side: Let's look about for help.
- In the area or vicinity; near: spoke to a few spectators standing about.
- In succession; one after another: Turn about is fair play.
a. On the verge of doing something; presently going to do something. Used with the infinitive: The chorus is about to sing.
b. Usage Problem Used to show determination or intention in negative constructions with an infinitive: I am not about to concede the point.
- On all sides of; surrounding: I found an English garden all about me.
- In the vicinity of; around: explored the rivers and streams about the estate.
- Almost the same as; close to; near.
a. In reference to; relating to; concerned with: a book about snakes.
b. In the act or process of: While you're about it, please clean your room.
- In the possession or innate character of: Keep your wits about you.
- Moving here and there; astir: The patient is up and about.
- Being in evidence or existence: Rumors are about concerning his resignation.
Origin of about
Middle English from
Old English onbūtan on in
; see on
. būtan outside
; see ud-
in Indo-European roots.
Usage Note: The preposition about is traditionally used to refer to the relation between a narrative and its subject: a book about Cézanne; a movie about the Boston Massacre. For some time, this usage has been extended beyond narratives to refer to the relation between various kinds of nouns and the things they entail or make manifest: The party was mostly about showing off their new offices. You don't understand what the women's movement is about. This controversial usage probably originates with the familiar expression all about, as in Let me tell you all about her. In our 2001 survey, 62 percent of the Usage Panel rejected about in the party example listed above, and 51 percent rejected Their business is about matching people with the right technology. In 1988, 59 percent rejected a similar example. It is probably best to limit this use of about to more informal contexts. • When followed by an infinitive, about to means “on the verge of,” as in I'm about to go downtown. The construction not about to usually expresses intention or determination, as in We are not about to negotiate with terrorists. This usage was considered unacceptable in formal writing to a majority of the Usage Panel in 1988, but resistance has eroded with familiarity. Fully 82 percent accepted it in our 2001 survey.
- In a circle around; all round; on every side of; on the outside of. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- Near; not far from; regarding approximately time, size, quantity; on the point or verge of. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- the show is about to start; I am not about to admit to your crime
- On one's person; nearby the person. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- Over or upon different parts of; through or over in various directions; here and there in; to and fro in; throughout. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- Concerned with; engaged in; intent on. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- Concerning; with regard to; on account of; on the subject of; to affect. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- He knew more about what was occurring than anyone.
- (figuratively) In or near, as in mental faculties or (literally) in possession of; in control of; at one's command; in one's makeup. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)]
- He has his wits about him.
- In the immediate neighborhood of; in contiguity or proximity to; near, as to place. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)]
- (concerning): Used as a function word to indicate what is dealt with as the object of thought, feeling, or action.
- On all sides; around. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- Here and there; around; in one place and another; up and down. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- In succession; one after another; in the course of events. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- Nearly; approximately; with close correspondence, in quality, manner, degree, quantity, or time; almost. [First attested prior to 1150.]
- about as cold; about as high
- On the move; active; astir. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- Near; in the vicinity. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- To a reversed order; half round; facing in the opposite direction; from a contrary point of view. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
- to face about; to turn one's self about.
- (archaic) In circuit; circularly; by a circuitous way; around the outside; in circumference. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)]
- a mile about, and a third of a mile across.
- (nautical) To the opposite tack. [First attested in the late 15th century.]
- (chiefly North America, colloquial) Going to; on the verge of; intending to. [First attested in the early 16th century.]
- From Middle English aboute, abouten, from Old English abūtan, onbūtan, from on (“in, on”) + būtan (“outside of”), from be (“by”) + ūtan (“outside”).
- Moving around; astir.
- out and about; up and about
- In existence; being in evidence; apparent;
- Normally active and capable.
- After my bout with Guillan-Barre Syndrome, it took me 6 months to be up and about again.
From Middle English about (adverb).