) KEY ADVERB:
- Approximately; nearly: The interview lasted about an hour.
- Almost: The job is about done.
- To a reversed position or direction: Turn about and walk away slowly.
- In no particular direction: wandering about with no place to go.
- All around; on every side: Let's look about for help.
- In the area or vicinity; near: spoke to a few spectators standing about.
- In succession; one after another: Turn about is fair play.
- On the verge of; presently going to. Used with the infinitive: The chorus is about to sing.
- Usage Problem Used to show determination or intention in negative constructions with an infinitive: I am not about to concede the point.
- On all sides of; surrounding: I found an English garden all about me.
- In the vicinity of; around: explored the rivers and streams about the estate.
- Almost the same as; close to; near.
- In reference to; relating to; concerned with: a book about snakes.
- In the act or process of: While you're about it, please clean your room.
- In the possession or innate character of: Keep your wits about you.
- Moving here and there; astir: The patient is up and about.
- Being in evidence or existence: Rumors are about concerning his resignation.
Middle English, from Old English onbtan
; see on
; see ud-
in Indo-European rootsUsage Note:
The construction not about to
is often used to express determination: We are not about to negotiate with terrorists.
A majority of the Usage Panel considers this usage acceptable in speech but not in formal writing.·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.
This use has lately been extended to refer to the relation between various nonlinguistic entities and the things they make manifest, as in The party was mostly about showing off their new offices
or His designs are about the use of rough-textured materials.
This practice probably originates with the expression That's what it's all about,
but it remains controversial. Fifty-nine percent of the Usage Panel rejected this use in the example A designer teapot isn't about making tea; it is about letting people know that you have a hundred dollars to spend on a teapot.