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): /əˈ baʊt/
  • (Canada, Scotland) IPA(key): /əˈ bʌʊt/, [əˈ bɐʊt], [əˈ boʊt]
  • (Canada, Ireland, Virginia) IPA(key): /əˈ bɛʊt/
  • Rhymes: -aʊt
  • Hyphenation: about


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

Adjective from Middle English about (adverb).



  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.
    • 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.]
    • 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.
    Synonyms: apropos, as for; see also 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.
    (Chester) Have you much hay about? = Have you much in the process of making?
    (Chester) "What's Mary doin'?" "Oh ! oo's about th' butter." = "What's Mary doing?" "Oh, she's making the butter.
  6. Within or in the immediate neighborhood of; in contiguity or proximity to; near, as to place. [First attested around 1350 to 1470.]
    I can't find my reading glasses, but they must be somewhere about the house.
    John's in the garden, probably 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.
  8. (figuratively) 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.]

Usage notes

  • (Indicates that something will happen very soon): In modern English, always followed by an infinitive that begins with to ("I am about to bathe"); see about to. 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.



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.
  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.]
    • 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.
  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.]
    • 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" [1] [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.]
    • 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.


  • (many senses): around
Derived terms


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?
  3. (Should we delete(+) this sense?) 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.


  • (moving around): around, active, mobile, astir
  • (in existence): around


  • about at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • about in The Century Dictionary, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911.


  • Touba, Tuoba, U-boat



about m (plural abouts)

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

Further reading

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


  • bouta, tabou

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