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

Origin of 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) by1 + 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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for about


  1. relating to; concerning; on the subject of
  2. near or close to (in space or time)
  3. carried onI haven't any money about me
  4. on every side of; all the way around
  5. active in or engaged inshe is about her business
  6. about to
    1. on the point of; intending toshe was about to jump
    2. (with a negative)determined not tonobody is about to miss it
  1. approximately; near in number, time, degree, etcabout 50 years old
  2. nearby
  3. here and there; from place to place; in no particular directionwalk about to keep warm
  4. all around; on every side
  5. in or to the opposite directionhe turned about and came back
  6. in rotation or revolutionturn and turn about
  7. used in informal phrases to indicate understatementI've had just about enough of your insults; it's about time you stopped
  8. archaic in circumference; around
  1. (predicative) active; astir after sleepup and about
  2. (predicative) in existence, current, or in circulationthere aren't many about nowadays

Word Origin for about

Old English abūtan, onbūtan on the outside of, around, from on + būtan outside
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for about

Old English abutan, earlier onbutan "on the outside of," from on (see on) + be "by" (see by) + utan "outside," from ut (see out (adv.)). By 13c. it had forced out Old English ymbe, ymbutan for meaning "in the neighborhood of." Abouts, with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., probably is a northern dialectal form. About face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, American English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with about


In addition to the idioms beginning with about

  • about time
  • about to

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® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.