about

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

  • (archaic) abowt; (abbreviation) a., (abbreviation) ab.,* (abbreviation) abt.

Pronunciation[edit]

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English aboute, abouten, from Old English abūtan,[1] onbūtan, from on (in, on) + būtan (outside of),[2] from be (by) + ūtan (outside).[3]

Preposition[edit]

about

  1. In a circle around; all round; on every side of; on the outside of. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
  2. Near; not far from; regarding approximately time, size, quantity. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
    • 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.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 4, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I told him about everything I could think of; and what I couldn't think of he did. He asked about six questions during my yarn, but every question had a point to it. At the end he bowed and thanked me once more. As a thanker he was main-truck high; I never see anybody so polite.
    • 2013 July 20, “Welcome to the plastisphere”, The Economist, volume 408, number 8845: 
      [The researchers] noticed many of their pieces of [plastic marine] debris sported surface pits around two microns across. Such pits are about the size of a bacterial cell. Closer examination showed that some of these pits did, indeed, contain bacteria,  [] .
  3. On the point or verge of.
    • 1769, King James Bible, Oxford Standard text, Acts of the Apostles, xviii, 14
      And when Paul was now about to open his mouth, Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked lewdness, O ye Jews, reason would that I should bear with you:
    • 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."
      (Note: This use passes into the adverbial sense.)
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 1, The Celebrity:
      I was about to say that I had known the Celebrity from the time he wore kilts. But I see I will have to amend that, because he was not a celebrity then, nor, indeed, did he achieve fame until some time after I left New York for the West.
    the show is about to start;  I am not about to admit to your crime
  4. On one's person; nearby the person. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
    • 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?"
  5. 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.)][2]
    • 1671, John Milton, Paradise Regained
      That heard the Adversary, who, roving still / About the world, at that assembly famed ...
    • 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.
  6. Concerned with; engaged in; intent on. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
    • 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.
  7. Concerning; with regard to; on account of; on the subject of; to affect. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
    He knew more about what was occurring than anyone.
    • 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."
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 4, Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I told him about everything I could think of; and what I couldn't think of he did. He asked about six questions during my yarn, but every question had a point to it. At the end he bowed and thanked me once more. As a thanker he was main-truck high; I never see anybody so polite.
    • 2013 June 22, “Engineers of a different kind”, The Economist, volume 407, number 8841, page 70: 
      Private-equity nabobs bristle at being dubbed mere financiers. Piling debt onto companies’ balance-sheets is only a small part of what leveraged buy-outs are about, they insist. Improving the workings of the businesses they take over is just as core to their calling, if not more so. Much of their pleading is public-relations bluster.
  8. (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.)][2]
    He has his wits about him.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 2, The Celebrity:
      Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. [] A silver snaffle on a heavy leather watch guard which connected the pockets of his corduroy waistcoat, together with a huge gold stirrup in his Ascot tie, sufficiently proclaimed his tastes. [] But withal there was a perceptible acumen about the man which was puzzling in the extreme.
  9. In the immediate neighborhood of; in contiguity or proximity to; near, as to place. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)][2]
    • 1892, James Yoxall, chapter 5, The Lonely Pyramid:
      The desert storm was riding in its strength; the travellers lay beneath the mastery of the fell simoom. [] Roaring, leaping, pouncing, the tempest raged about the wanderers, drowning and blotting out their forms with sandy spume.
Usage notes[edit]
  • (on the point or verge of): In modern English, always followed by an infinitive that begins with to. An archaic or obsolete form instead follows the about with the present participle.
  • (concerning): Used as a function word to indicate what is dealt with as the object of thought, feeling, or action.
Translations[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Adverb[edit]

about (not comparable)

  1. Not distant; approximate.
    1. On all sides; around. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
    2. Here and there; around; in one place and another; up and down. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
      • 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 Chambers, chapter 9/2, The Younger Set:
        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; […]
    3. Nearly; approximately; with close correspondence, in quality, manner, degree, quantity, or time; almost. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
      about as cold;  about as high
      • 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.
    4. Near; in the vicinity. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
  2. In succession; one after another; in the course of events. [First attested prior to 1150.][2]
  3. On the move; active; astir. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
  4. To a reversed order; half round; facing in the opposite direction; from a contrary point of view. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)][2]
    to face about;  to turn one's self about
    1. (nautical) To the opposite tack. [First attested in the late 15th century.][2]
  5. (obsolete) Preparing; planning. [Attested from around (1150 to 1350) until the late 18th century.][2]
  6. (archaic) In circuit; circularly; by a circuitous way; around the outside; in circumference. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)][2]
    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, Volume 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.
  7. (chiefly North America, colloquial) Going to; on the verge of; intending to. [First attested in the early 16th century.][2]
Derived terms[edit]
Translations[edit]

{trans-top|on the verge of; intending to}} | style="width:1%; " | | style="background-color:#ffffe0; vertical-align:top; text-align:left; width:48%; " |

|}

The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Help:How to check translations.

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English about (adverb).

Adjective[edit]

about (not comparable)

  1. Moving around; astir.
    out and about; up and about
    • 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;
    • 1975, IPC Building & Contract Journals Ltd, Highways & road construction, Volume 43,
      To my mind, transportation engineering is similar to flying in the 1930s — it has been about for some time but it has taken the present economic jolt to shake it out of its infancy, in the same way that the war started the development of flying to its current stage.
    • 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. Normally active and capable.
    After my bout with Guillan-Barre Syndrome, it took me 6 months to be up and about again.
Synonyms[edit]

Statistics[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Philip Babcock Gove (editor), Webster's Third International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged (G. & C. Merriam Co., 1976 [1909], ISBN 0-87779-101-5), page 5
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 Lesley Brown (editor), The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition (Oxford University Press, 2003 [1933], ISBN 978-0-19-860575-7), page 7
  3. ^ Christine A. Lindberg (editor), The Oxford College Dictionary, 2nd edition (Spark Publishing, 2007 [2002], ISBN 978-1-4114-0500-4), page 4

Anagrams[edit]


French[edit]

Noun[edit]

about m (plural abouts)

  1. (technical) The extremity of a metallic or wooden element or piece.

Anagrams[edit]

External links[edit]