a·bout ( P ) Pronunciation Key (-bout)
- 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 : on, in; see on + btan, outside; see ud- in Indo-European Roots.]
Usage 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.
|Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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).
|Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
adj : on the move; "up and about"; "the whole town was astir over the incident" [syn: about(p), astir(p)] adv 1: (of quantities) imprecise but fairly close to correct; "lasted approximately an hour"; "in just about a minute"; "he's about 30 years old"; "I've had about all I can stand"; "we meet about once a month"; "some forty people came"; "weighs around a hundred pounds"; "roughly $3,000"; "holds 3 gallons, more or less"; "20 or so people were at the party" [syn: approximately, close to, just about, some, roughly, more or less, around, or so] 2: all around or on all sides; "dirty clothes lying around (or about)"; "let's look about for help"; "There were trees growing all around"; "she looked around her" [syn: around] 3: in the area or vicinity; "a few spectators standing about"; "hanging around"; "waited around for the next flight" [syn: around] 4: to or among many different places or in no particular direction; "wandering about with no place to go"; "people were rushing about"; "news gets around (or about)"; "traveled around in Asia"; "he needs advice from someone who's been around"; "she sleeps around" [syn: around] 5: in or to a reversed position or direction; "about face"; "brought the ship about"; "suddenly she turned around" [syn: around] 6: in rotation or succession; "turn about is fair play" 7: (of actions or states) slightly short of or not quite accomplished; `near' is sometimes used informally for `nearly' and `most' is sometimes used informally for `almost'; "the job is (just) about done"; "the baby was almost asleep when the alarm sounded"; "we're almost finished"; "the car all but ran her down"; "he nearly fainted"; "talked for nigh onto 2 hours"; "the recording is well-nigh perfect"; "virtually all the parties signed the contract"; "I was near exhausted by the run"; "most everyone agrees" [syn: just about, almost, most, all but, nearly, near, nigh, virtually, well-nigh]