Definition of about in English:


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  • 1On the subject of; concerning.

    ‘I was thinking about you’
    • ‘it's all about having fun’
    • ‘an article about yellow fever’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘It's a good kids and adult cartoon book, all about the triumph of good over evil.’
    • ‘So impassioned am I about Croydon that I have put together a poetry book all about it.’
    • ‘This is the only reason that should be regarded when talking about this subject.’
    • ‘I am mostly concerned about the amount of exhaust fumes we are being subjected to.’
    • ‘In America, the book has chimed with concern about corruption in the Catholic Church.’
    • ‘As far as Basques who are not too fussed about their food are concerned, using a recipe book is cheating.’
    • ‘It quickly came in the form of a book on the subject, Girls Night In, or rather an article about the book.’
    • ‘He suggests that such evasiveness often occurs because of concerns about giving away the plot.’
    • ‘There is much more to say about this subject, but that has to wait for another time.’
    • ‘I'm not too concerned about the exam, just looking forwards to getting it over and done with.’
    • ‘Even if you don't know about the subject matter, you can apply the generic skills to any business.’
    • ‘What we will have to settle for, at best, is a frank debate about some of the subjects raised by Mind the Gap.’
    • ‘Good biopics struggle to present a truth, if not the truth, about their subjects.’
    • ‘It is really immaterial how much we are promised about the good intentions of the new owners.’
    • ‘However a spokesman for the firm declined to give any information about its intentions.’
    • ‘Yet this is not all - the nature and placing of these units can say a lot about your intentions.’
    • ‘Today I would like to tell you a little more about what is involved and what I do.’
    regarding, concerning, with reference to, referring to, with regard to, with respect to, respecting, relating to, on, touching on, dealing with, relevant to, with relevance to, connected with, in connection with, on the subject of, in the matter of, apropos, re
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    1. 1.1So as to affect.
      ‘there's nothing we can do about it’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Stephanie says that unless she did something about her weight, she would just carry on piling on the pounds.’
      • ‘The system is rubbish, but there's nothing I can do about that.’
  • 2mainly British Used to indicate movement within a particular area.

    ‘she looked about the room’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They strolled about the gardens, enjoying the beautiful day.’
    • ‘I should like to walk about my city again without being subjected to foul-mouthed racist abuse.’
    around, round, throughout, over, through, all over, in all parts of, on every side of, encircling, surrounding
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  • 3mainly British Used to express location in a particular place.

    ‘rugs strewn about the hall’
    • ‘he produced a knife from somewhere about his person’
    • ‘Residents near the play area are being disturbed by noise, and beer cans have been left about the area.’
    around, in circulation, in existence, current, going on, prevailing, prevalent, widespread, pervasive, endemic, happening, in the air, abroad
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    1. 3.1Used to describe a quality apparent in a person.
      ‘there was a look about her that said everything’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The girl's eyes had a blank look about them.’
      • ‘He was friendly, with a gentle way about him and the wisdom that came with age.’



/əˈbout/ /əˈbaʊt/


  • 1mainly British Used to indicate movement in an area.

    ‘men were floundering about’
    • ‘finding my way about’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The day was too warm and too nice for rushing about.’
    • ‘A small space was fenced off so that the lion could move about, unhindered.’
    around, here and there, to and fro, back and forth, from place to place, hither and thither, in every direction, in all directions, abroad
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  • 2mainly British Used to express location in a particular place.

    ‘there was a lot of flu about’
    • ‘a thief about in the hotel’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Couches, armchairs and tables were scattered about the place.’
    • ‘She had scars all about her body and face.’
    • ‘She looked inside to find the contents scattered about and then heard noises upstairs.’
    near, nearby, around, about the place, hereabouts, not far away, not far off, close by, in the vicinity, in the neighbourhood, at hand, within reach, on the doorstep, around the corner, just around the corner
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  • 3(used with a number or quantity) approximately.

    ‘reduced by about 5 percent’
    • ‘he's about 35’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They held up movements for about eight hours and the road was effectively closed.’
    • ‘Plane Tree Grove is a residential area about a quarter of a mile from the airport.’
    • ‘I spent about twenty minutes reading the wrong manual until JoAnn tactfully pointed out the mistake.’
    • ‘I get about five emails per day from them.’
    approximately, roughly, around, round about, in the neighbourhood of, in the region of, in the area of, of the order of, something like
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/əˈbout/ /əˈbaʊt/


    about to do something
    • Intending to do something or close to doing something very soon.

      ‘the ceremony was about to begin’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had been about to close the door, but I stopped, afraid that the noise it would make would be disruptive.’
      • ‘Nicol easily controlled the next two games, and seemed to be about to close out the match.’
      • ‘We showed up at the barn right when they were about to begin milking the cows.’
      • ‘Gavin is about to begin a music course at college and hopes to become a session musician when he graduates.’
      • ‘The council is about to begin consultation with residents on the options for council tax.’
      • ‘He leaps aboard and the most extraordinary adventure of his young life is about to begin.’
      • ‘The first major battle over public sector pensions could be about to begin.’
    be not about to do something
    • Be unwilling to do something.

      ‘he is not about to step down after so long’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Skipton Girls' High School twins Louise and Charlotte Cobb were not about to let one outdo the other - both achieved five grade As at A-level.’
      • ‘Mr Laurence Howard, spokesperson for the Erris Action Group explained to the Western People that the people of Erris were not about to be put off by the law.’
      • ‘More than 100 residents in Greenhithe were pushed too far and showed they were more than a force to be reckoned with and they were not about to be steam-rolled.’
      • ‘The problem was that Standard Life, the former owners of the shopping centre, said they were not about to spend any money removing this blot on the townscape.’
      • ‘Luckily however, her mother and neighbours were not about to give up on the notion and warned her that if she didn't enter, they'd do it for her!’
      • ‘I quickly left the midges behind but they were not about to give up and descending into Tarsaughaun, I could hear the hum at fifty yards.’
      • ‘Ireland were not about to ease off, and emphasised the point with Henderson's dramatic arrival in midfield.’
    know what one is about
    • Be aware of the implications of one's actions or of a situation, and of how best to deal with them.

      • ‘don't go to the Congo without knowing what you're about’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘He knew early on what he was about.’


Old English onbūtan, from on ‘in, on’ + būtan ‘outside of’ (see but).