of; concerning; in regard to: instructions about the work; a book about the Civil War.
connected or associated with: There was an air of mystery about him.
near; close to: a man about my height; about six o'clock.
in or somewhere near: He is about the house.
on every side of; around: the railing about the excavation.
on or near (one's person): They lost all they had about them.
so as to be of use to: Keep your wits about you.
on the verge or point of (usually followed by an infinitive): about to leave.
here or there; in or on: to wander about the old castle.
concerned with; engaged in doing: Tell me what it's about. Bring me the other book while you're about it.
near in time, number, degree, etc.; approximately: It's about five miles from here.
nearly; almost: Dinner is about ready.
nearby; not far off: He is somewhere about.
on every side; in every direction; around: Look about and see if you can find it.
halfway around; in the opposite direction: to turn a car about.
from one place to another; in this place or that: to move furniture about; important papers strewn about.
in rotation or succession; alternately: Turn about is fair play.
in circumference: a wheel two inches about.
onto a new tack.
onto a new course.
moving around; astir: He was up and about while the rest of us still slept.
in existence; current; prevalent: Chicken pox is about.

before 900; Middle English aboute(n), Old English abūtan, onbūtan on the outside of (a- a-1 + būtan outside (see but1, but2), equivalent to b(e) by + ūtan), cognate with Gothic utana, Old Norse, Old Saxon ūtan, Old Frisian ūta, Old High German ūzan(a) outside; see out; cf. above, abaft for formation

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
about (əˈbaʊt)
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 & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. onbutan "on the outside of," from on "on" + be "by" + utan "outside," from ut (see out). By 13c. it had forced out O.E. ymbe for meaning "in the neighborhood of." Abouts, with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., is probably a northern dialectal form. About
face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, Amer.Eng.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idioms beginning with about, also see at about; beat about the bush; bring about; cast about; come about; do an about-face; get about; go about (one's business); how about (that); just about; knock about; lay about; man about town; nose about (around); no two ways about it; order someone about; out and about; see about; send someone about someone's business; set about; that's about the size of it; up and about; what about someone (something).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
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