Entries linking to walkabout
"travel on foot," c. 1200, a merger of two verbs, 1. Old English wealcan "to toss, roll, move round" (past tense weolc, past participle wealcen), and 2. wealcian "to roll up, curl," from Proto-Germanic *welk- (source also of Old Norse valka "to drag about," Danish valke "to full" (cloth), Middle Dutch walken "to knead, press, full" (cloth), Old High German walchan "to knead," German walken "to full"), perhaps ultimately from PIE root *wel- (3) "to turn, revolve."
The shift in sense is perhaps from a colloquial use of the Old English word or via the sense of "to full cloth" (by treading on it), though this sense does not appear until after the change in meaning. In 13c. it is used of snakes and the passage of time, and in 15c. of wheeled carts. "Rarely is there so specific a word as NE walk, clearly distinguished from both go and run" [Buck]. Meaning "to go away" is recorded from mid-15c. Transitive meaning "to exercise a dog (or horse)" is from late 15c.; meaning "to escort (someone) in a walk" is from 1620s. Meaning "move (a heavy object) by turning and shoving it in a manner suggesting walking" is by 1890. To walk it off, of an injury, etc., is from 1741. Related: Walked; walking.
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.
updated on June 02, 2012