about
Pronunciation
  • (America, England) IPA: /əˈbaʊt/
  • (Canada, Scotland) IPA: /əˈbʌʊt/, [əˈbɐʊt], [əˈbʌʊt]
  • (Canada, Ireland) IPA: /əˈbɛʊt/

Preposition
  1. In a circle around; all round; on every side of; on the outside of. [First attested prior to 1150.]
    The snake was coiled about his ankle.
    • c.1604–1605, William Shakespeare, All's Well That Ends Well
      So look about you; know you any here?
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Proverbs, iii, 3
      Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
  2. 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.]
    Rubbish was strewn about the place.
    The children were running about the room.
    He was well known about town.
    • 1671, John Milton, “Book the First”, in Paradise Regain’d. A Poem. In IV Books. To which is Added, Samson Agonistes, London: Printed by J. M[acock] for John Starkey […], OCLC 228732398 ↗, lines 30–35, page 3 ↗:
      [I]n likeneſs of a Dove / The Spirit deſcended, while the Fathers voice / From Heav'n pronounc'd him his beloved Son. / That heard the Adverſary, who roving ſtill / About the world, at that aſſembly fam'd / Would not be laſt, {{...}
    • 1849, Thomas Babington Macaulay, The history of England from the accession of James the Second
      He had been known, during several years, as a small poet; and some of the most savage lampoons which were handed about the coffeehouses were imputed to him.
  3. Indicates that something will happen very soon; indicates a plan or intention to do something.
    1. (with 'to' and verb infinitive) See about to.
    2. (with present participle, obsolete or dialect) On the point or verge of.
      • 1866, A treatise on the law of suits by attachment in the United States, by Charles Daniel Drake, page 80 ↗
        [It] was held, that the latter requirement was fulfilled by an affidavit declaring that "the defendant was about leaving the State permanently."
  4. Concerning; with regard to; on account of; on the subject of; to affect. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
    He talked a lot about his childhood.
    We must do something about this problem.
    • 1671 John Milton, Samson Agonistes
      I already have made way / To some Philistian lords, with whom to treat / About thy ransom.
    • 1860, Anthony Trollope, Framley Parsonage
      "I'll tell you what, Fanny: she must have her way about Sarah Thompson. You can see her to-morrow and tell her so."
    • 2016, [https://web.archive.org/web/20171030003034/https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/lets-learn-english-lesson-8-are-you-busy/3253185.html VOA Learning English] (public domain)
      Well, let’s not talk about yesterday.
    Synonyms: apropos, as for, Thesaurus:about
  5. Concerned with; engaged in; intent on. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
    to be about one's business
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Luke, ii, 49
      And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?
    • 2013 March 14, Parks and Recreation, season 5, episode 16, Bailout:
      RON: And I'll have the number 8.
      WAITER: That's a party platter, it serves 12 people.
      RON: I know what I'm about, son.
  6. In the immediate neighborhood of; in contiguity or proximity to; near, as to place. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    John is somewhere about the woodshed.
  7. On one's person; nearby the person. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
    I had no weapon about me but a stick.
    • 1837, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Ernest Maltravers: Volume 1
      At this assurance the traveller rose, and approached Alice softly. He drew away her hands from her face, when she said gently, "Have you much money about you?"
      "Oh the mercenary baggage!" said the traveller to himself; and then replied aloud "Why, pretty one? Do you sell your kisses so high, then?"
  8. (figurative) In or near, as in mental faculties or (literally) in the possession of; under the control of; at one's command; in one's makeup. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    He has his wits about him.
    There was an air of confidence about the woman.
Translations
  • French: autour
  • German: um... (herum)
  • Italian: circa
  • Portuguese: ao redor de, nas redondezas de
  • Russian: круго́м
  • Spanish: alrededor de, por
Translations Translations
  • French: sur le point
  • German: bereit zu
  • Italian: stare per
  • Portuguese: prestes a
  • Russian: гото́в
  • Spanish: a punto de
Translations Translations Translations
  • French: aux environs de
  • Italian: vicino
  • Portuguese: perto
  • Russian: ря́дом
  • Spanish: cerca de

Adverb

about (not comparable)

  1. On all sides; around. [First attested before 1150.]
    I looked about at the scenery that surrounded me.
    • 1599, Robert Greene, The Comical History of Alphonsus King of Aragon, III-ii,
      Why, then, I see, ‘tis time to look about, / When every boy Alphonsus dares control.
  2. Here and there; around; in one place and another; up and down. [First attested before 1150.]
    Bits of old machinery were lying about.
  3. From one place or position to another in succession; indicating repeated movement or activity.
    walking about;  rushing about;  jumping about;  thrashing about
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, 1 Timothy, v,13,
      And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter IX, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326 ↗:
      He and Gerald usually challenged the rollers in a sponson canoe when Gerald was there for the weekend; or, when Lansing came down, the two took long swims seaward or cruised about in Gerald's dory, clad in their swimming-suits; and Selwyn's youth became renewed in a manner almost ridiculous, […].
  4. Indicating unproductive or unstructured activity.
    messing about;  fooling about;  ''loafing about
  5. Nearly; approximately; with close correspondence in quality, manner, degree, quantity, or time; almost. [First attested before 1150.]
    It's about as cold as it was last winter.
    He owes me about three hundred dollars.
    Dinner's about ready.
    I was so scared, I about fainted.
    • c.1590–1591, William Shakespeare, The Two Gentlemen of Verona
      Therefore I know she is about my height.
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Matthew, xx, 3,
      And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Exodus, ix, 18
      Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now.
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Exodus, xxxii,28:
      And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
    • 1907, Robert William Chambers, chapter IX, in The Younger Set, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 24962326 ↗:
      “Heavens!” exclaimed Nina, “the blue-stocking and the fogy!—and yours are pale blue, Eileen!—you’re about as self-conscious as Drina—slumping there with your hair tumbling à la Mérode! Oh, it's very picturesque, of course, but a straight spine and good grooming is better. […]”
  6. Near; in the vicinity. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
  7. 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 oneself about
    • 1888, Horatio Alger, The Errand Boy,
      Mr. Carter, whose back had been turned, turned about and faced his niece.
    1. (nautical) To the opposite tack. [First attested in the late 15th century.]
  8. (obsolete or rare) In succession; one after another; in the course of events. [First attested before 1150.]
    • 1818, James Hogg, published in The Scots Magazine, Vol. 86, p. 218, "On the Life and Writings of James Hogg" [Quoted in the OED]
      When he had finished, he drew his plaid around his head, and went slowly down to the little dell, where he used every day to offer up his morning and evening prayers, and where we have often sat together on Sabbath afternoons, reading verse about with our children in the Bible.
  9. (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
    • 1886, Duncan Keith, A history of Scotland: civil and ecclesiastical from the earliest times to the death of David I, 1153, Vol.1,
      Nothing daunted, the fleet put to sea, and after sailing about the island for some time, a landing was effected in the west of Munster.
Synonyms Translations
  • Portuguese: ao redor, em volta
  • Russian: вокру́г
  • Spanish: alrededor
Translations
  • Italian: intorno
  • Portuguese: por aí
  • Russian: туда́-сюда́
  • Spanish: alrededor
Translations Translations Translations
  • Russian: обра́тно
Translations
  • Russian: подря́д
Translations
Adjective

about (not comparable)

  1. Moving around; astir.
    out and about;  up and about
    After my bout with Guillan-Barre Syndrome, it took me 6 months to be up and about again.
    • 1898, J. Meade Falkner, Moonfleet,
      'John, I have observed that you are often out and about of nights, sometimes as late as half past seven or eight. […]'
  2. In existence; being in evidence; apparent.
    This idea has been about for a while but has only recently become fashionable.
    • 2005, IDG Communications, Digit, Issues 89-94,
      Although it has been about for some time now, I like the typeface Sauna.
    • 2006, Great Britain Parliament: House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, Energy: Meeting With Malcolm Wicks MP,
      Is not this sudden interest in capturing CO2 — and it has been about for a little while — simply another hidey-hole for the government to creep into?
  3. Near; in the vicinity or neighbourhood.
    I had my keys just a minute ago, so they must be about somewhere.
    Watch out, there's a thief about.
Synonyms


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