synonyms, antonyms, definitions, examples & translations of about in English

English Online Dictionary. What means about‎? What does about mean?


Alternative forms

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


  • (US, England) IPA(key): /əˈbaʊt/
  • (Canada, Scotland) IPA(key): /əˈbʌʊt/, [əˈbɐʊt], [əˈbʌʊt]
  • (Canada, Ireland) IPA(key): /əˈbɛʊt/
  • Rhymes: -aʊt
  • Hyphenation: about

Etymology 1

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



  1. In a circle around; all round; on every side of; on the outside of. [First attested prior to 1150.]
    • 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. Near; not far from; approximately; regarding time, size, quantity. [First attested prior to 1150.]
    • 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.
  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.)
  4. On one's person; nearby the person. [First attested around (1150 to 1350.)]
    • 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.)]
    • 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.)]
    • 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.)]
    • 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, VOA Learning English (public domain)
      Well, let’s not talk about yesterday. 
  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.)]
  9. In the immediate neighborhood of; in contiguity or proximity to; near, as to place. [First attested around (1350 to 1470.)]
Usage notes
  • (on the point or verge of): In modern English, always followed by an infinitive that begins with to ("I am about to bathe"). In the past, it was possible to instead follow the about with the present participle ("I am about swimming"), but this format is no longer used or widely understood.
  • (concerning): Used as a function word to indicate what is dealt with as the object of thought, feeling, or action.
  • (concerning; with regard to): apropos, as for; See also Thesaurus:about


about (not comparable)

  1. Not distant; approximate.
    1. On all sides; around. [First attested before 1150.]
      • 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.]
      • 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.
      • 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, [].
    3. Nearly; approximately; with close correspondence, in quality, manner, degree, quantity, or time; almost. [First attested before 1150.]
      • 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.
      • “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. []
    4. Near; in the vicinity. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
  2. In succession; one after another; in the course of events. [First attested before 1150.]
  3. On the move; active; astir. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
  4. To a reversed order; half round; facing in the opposite direction; from a contrary point of view. [First attested around 1150 to 1350.]
    • 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.]
  5. (obsolete) Preparing; planning. [Attested from around 1150 to 1350 until the late 18th century.]
  6. (archaic) In circuit; circularly; by a circuitous way; around the outside; in circumference. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    • 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.
  7. (chiefly Canada, US, colloquial) Going to; on the verge of; intending to. [First attested in the early 16th century.]
Derived terms

Etymology 2

From Middle English about (adverb).


about (not comparable)

  1. Moving around; astir.
    • 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
    • 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?
  • (moving around): around, active, mobile, astir



  • Touba, U-boat



about m (plural abouts)

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

Further reading

  • “about” in le Trésor de la langue française informatisé (The Digitized Treasury of the French Language).


  • bouta, tabou

WebDictionary.net is an Free English Dictionary containing information about the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, definitions, translations, etymology and more.

Related Words


Browse the English Dictionary

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z


This article based on an article on Wiktionary. The list of authors can be seen in the page history there. The original work has been modified. This article is distributed under the terms of this license.