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about

Line breaks: about
Pronunciation: /əˈbaʊt
 
/

Definition of about in English:

preposition

1On the subject of; concerning: I was thinking about you a book about ancient Greece it’s all about having fun
More example sentences
  • This is a subject of modern concern about which classical Buddhist sources have little to say.
  • That letter set out at some length Mr Carroll's concerns about a number of subjects.
  • Why write a scientific book about a subject best left to poets and songwriters?
Synonyms
1.1So as to affect: there’s nothing we can do about it
More example sentences
  • The argument now is about how badly we will be affected and whether it is too late to do anything about it.
  • But what caused the cancer in the first place, and what can we do about it?
  • We now have a better understanding as to why the firm is not accelerating in a growing marketplace, and what it is doing about it.
2chiefly British Used to indicate movement within a particular area: she looked about the room
More example sentences
  • He paused, looked about himself for a moment, and sighed.
  • I paused, gazing about the room, watching carefully for any sign of movement.
  • While some men can wander about a hardware store for an hour, I can kill 60 minutes or more in a kitchen supply place.
Synonyms
around, round, throughout, over, through, all over, in all parts of, on every side of, encircling, surrounding;
3chiefly British Used to express location in a particular place: rugs were strewn about the hall he produced a knife from somewhere about his person
More example sentences
  • Residents near the play area are being disturbed by noise, and beer cans have been left about the area.
Synonyms
3.1Used to describe a quality apparent in a person: there was a look about her that said everything
More example sentences
  • Seen from the air in the lemony light of dawn, the place has an almost mystical quality about it.
  • There was a film noir quality about that piece of managerial advice, and it fitted the times.
  • The French veteran has a grace about his movement which seems to mesmerise opponents.

adverb

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1chiefly British Used to indicate movement within an area: men were floundering about finding my way about
More example sentences
  • They emptied the pool of its water by splashing about and then threw toys and sand into it.
  • What does swimming about and spontaneously singing bits of the Batman theme song mean?
  • You go in feet first - there's enough room to move about and then come out head first.
Synonyms
around, here and there, to and fro, back and forth, from place to place, hither and thither, in every direction, in all directions, abroad
2chiefly British Used to express location in a particular place: there was a lot of flu about
More example sentences
  • The site was overgrown and there was refuse strewn about the area.
  • Houdini relied on great skill, low cunning, and keeping tiny metal picklocks concealed about his person.
  • I have friends scattered about Australia.
Synonyms
near, nearby, around, about the place, hereabouts, not far off/away, close by, in the vicinity, in the neighbourhood, at hand, within reach, on the doorstep, (just) around the corner
3(Used with a number or quantity) approximately: reduced by about 5 per cent he’s about 35
More example sentences
  • A lot of us got out and waited for the emergency services, who arrived within about ten minutes.
  • Arab traders took Islam to the area in about the twelfth century, possibly even earlier.
  • I read the graphic and then saw the film all within about a week of each other.
Synonyms
or so, or thereabouts, there or thereabouts, more or less, give or take a few, not far off;
British getting on for;
Latincirca
informal as near as dammit
North American informal in the ballpark of

Origin

Old English onbūtan, from on 'in, on' + būtan 'outside of' (see but2).

Phrases

be about to do something

1
Intend to do something, or be close to doing something, very soon: the ceremony was about to begin
More example sentences
  • They may be used to control symptoms in women who are close to the menopause for whom symptoms may soon be about to improve anyway.
  • The Government is about to close the door and stop all new referrals from receiving these drugs.
  • As the elevator doors were about to close, someone pushed the open button outside.
Synonyms
on the point of, on the verge of, on the brink of, within an ace of

be not about to do something

2
Be unwilling to do something: he is not about to step down after so long
More example sentences
  • The major telecoms companies and the raft of Internet companies suddenly found themselves faced with massive balance sheet deficits and fantasy profits that were not about to materialise.
  • They seemed content to sit back and invite Arsenal to come on to them, and the league leaders were not about to spurn the invitation.
  • People backed the president, because they wanted to back his patriotic effort, and they were not about to throw a wartime president out of office during a war.

be on about

3
see on.

know what one is about

4
informal Be sensible, self-possessed, and aware of how to deal with difficult situations: don’t go to the Congo without knowing what you’re about
More example sentences
  • That's the key, you need to know what you are about.
  • In time the truth will emerge but to win big contracts you have to know what you are about.
  • But, now you are here, may I ask if you know what you are about?

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