definition of about by The Free Dictionary




1. Approximately; nearly: The interview lasted about an hour.

2. Almost: The job is about done.

3. To a reversed position or direction: Turn about and walk away slowly.

4. In no particular direction: wandering about with no place to go.

5. All around; on every side: Let’s look about for help.

6. In the area or vicinity; near: spoke to a few spectators standing about.

7. 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.


1. On all sides of; surrounding: I found an English garden all about me.

2. In the vicinity of; around: explored the rivers and streams about the estate.

3. 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.

5. In the possession or innate character of: Keep your wits about you.


1. Moving here and there; astir: The patient is up and about.

2. Being in evidence or existence: Rumors are about concerning his resignation.

[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.

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




1. relating to; concerning; on the subject of

2. near or close to (in space or time)

3. carried on: I haven’t any money about me.

4. on every side of; all the way around

5. active in or engaged in: she is about her business.

6. about to

a. on the point of; intending to: she was about to jump.

b. (with a negative) determined not to: nobody is about to miss it.


7. approximately; near in number, time, degree, etc: about 50 years old.

8. nearby

9. here and there; from place to place; in no particular direction: walk about to keep warm.

10. all around; on every side

11. in or to the opposite direction: he turned about and came back.

12. in rotation or revolution: turn and turn about.

13. used in informal phrases to indicate understatement: I’ve had just about enough of your insults; it’s about time you stopped.

14. archaic in circumference; around


15. (predicative) active; astir after sleep: up and about.

16. (predicative) in existence, current, or in circulation: there aren’t many about nowadays.

[Old English abūtan, onbūtan on the outside of, around, from on + būtan outside]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014




1. concerning; on the subject of; in regard to: a book about the Civil War.

2. connected or associated with: an air of mystery about him.

3. near; close to: about my height; about six o’clock.

4. in or somewhere near: He is about the house.

5. on every side of; around.

6. on or near (one’s person): They lost all they had about them.

7. so as to be of use to: Keep your wits about you.

8. on the verge of (usu. fol. by an infinitive): about to leave.

9. here or there in or on: to wander about the castle.

10. engaged in or occupied with: while you’re about it.

11. having as a central concern or purpose: That’s not what life is all about.


12. near in time, number, degree, etc.; approximately: about five miles from here.

13. nearly; almost: Dinner is about ready.

14. nearby; not far off: He is somewhere about.

15. on every side; in every direction; around: to look about.

16. halfway around; in the opposite direction: to turn a car about.

17. here and there; in or to various places: to move furniture about; papers strewn about.

18. in rotation or succession; alternately: Turn about is fair play.

19. in circumference.

20. Naut.

a. onto a new tack.

b. onto a new course.


21. moving around; astir: She was up and about at dawn.

22. in existence; current; prevalent: The flu is about.


not about to, not intending or likely to.

[before 900; Middle English aboute(n), Old English abūtan, onbūtan on the outside of =a- a1 + būtan outside (see but1)]

Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. ‘about’

You use about when you mention what someone is saying, writing, or thinking.

Manuel told me about his new job.

I’ll have to think about that.

You can say that a book is about a particular subject or that it is on that subject.

She is writing a book about politics.

I’m reading Anthony Daniels’ book on Guatemala.

You can also use about to say what a novel or play deals with. Don’t use “”.

This is a novel about ethics.

They read a story about growing up.

2. ‘about to’

If you are about to do something, you are going to do it soon.

You are about to cross the River Jordan.

I was about to go home.

Be Careful!
Don’t use an -ing form in sentences like these. Don’t say, for example, ‘You are about crossing the River Jordan‘.


– round – about

1. talking about movement: “”, “”, and ‘about’ as prepositions or adverbs

When you are talking about movement in many different directions, you can use around, round, or about. You can use these words as adverbs.

It’s so romantic up there, flying around in a small plane.

We wandered round for hours.

Police walk about patrolling the city.

You can also use these words as prepositions.

I’ve been walking around Moscow.

I spent a couple of hours driving round Richmond.

He looked about the room but couldn’t see her.

Speakers of American English usually use around, rather than “” or ‘about’, in this sense.

2. talking about position: “” and “” as prepositions

When one thing is around or round another thing, it surrounds it or is on all sides of it. In this sense, these words are prepositions. You can’t use ‘about’ in this sense.

She was wearing a scarf round her head.

He had a towel wrapped around his head.

The earth moves round the sun.

The satellite passed around the earth.

Speakers of American English usually use around, rather than “”, in this sense.

3. being present or available: “” and ‘about’ as adverbs

When you are talking about something being generally present or available, you can use around or about, but not “”, as adverbs.

There is a lot of talent around at the moment.

There are not that many jobs about.

4. “” and “” used in phrasal verbs

You can also use around or round as the second part of some phrasal verbs, including come (a)round, turn (a)round, look (a)round, and run (a)round.

Don’t wait for April to come round before planning your vegetable garden.

When interview time came around, Rachel was nervous.

Imogen got round the problem in a clever way.

A problem has developed and I don’t know how to get around it.

He turned round and faced the window.

The old lady turned around angrily.

American English uses only around in these cases.

5. “”, ‘about’ and ’round about’ meaning “”

In conversation, around, about and round about are sometimes used to mean “”.

He owns around 200 acres.

She’s about twenty years old.

I’ve been here for round about ten years.

Be Careful!
Don’t use “” like this. Don’t say, for example, ‘He owns round 200 acres.’

Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012

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