Etymology
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about (adv., prep.)

Middle English aboute, from Old English abutan (adv., prep.), earlier onbutan "on the outside of; around the circumference of, enveloping; in the vicinity of, near; hither and thither, from place to place," also "with a rotating or spinning motion," in late Old English "near in time, number, degree, etc., approximately;" a compound or contraction of on (see on; also see a- (1)) + be "by" (see by) + utan "outside," from ut (see out (adv.)).

By c. 1300 it had developed senses of "around, in a circular course, round and round; on every side, so as to surround; in every direction;" also "engaged in" (Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?), and gradually it forced out Old English ymbe, ymbutan (from PIE root *ambhi- "around") in the sense "round about, in the neighborhood of."

From mid-13c. as "in the matter, in connection with." From early 14c. as "in partial rotation, so as to face in a different direction." From late 14c. as "near at hand, about one's person." "In a circuitous course," hence "on the move" (late 13c.), and in Middle English "be about to do, be busy in preparation for," hence its use as a future participle in (to be) about to "in readiness, intending." Abouts (late 14c.), with adverbial genitive, still found in hereabouts, etc., probably is a northern dialectal form.

To bring about "cause or affect" and to come about "happen" are from late 14c. About face as a military command (short for right about face) is first attested 1861, American English.

Origin and meaning of about

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Definitions of about
1
about (adv.)
(of quantities) imprecise but fairly close to correct;
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
Synonyms: approximately / close to / just about / some / roughly / more or less / around / or so
about (adv.)
all around or on all sides;
let's look about for help
dirty clothes lying around (or about)
Synonyms: around
about (adv.)
in the area or vicinity;
a few spectators standing about
Synonyms: around
about (adv.)
used of movement to or among many different places or in no particular direction;
people were rushing about
news gets around (or about)
wandering about with no place to go
Synonyms: around
about (adv.)
in or to a reversed position or direction;
about face
Synonyms: around
about (adv.)
in rotation or succession;
turn about is fair play
about (adv.)
(of actions or states) slightly short of or not quite accomplished; all but;
the job is (just) about done
Synonyms: almost / most / nearly / near / nigh / virtually / well-nigh
2
about (adj.)
on the move;
up and about
Synonyms: astir
From wordnet.princeton.edu