Entries linking to whereabout
Old English hwær, hwar "at what place," from Proto-Germanic adverb *hwar (source also of Old Saxon hwar, Old Norse hvar, Old Frisian hwer, Middle Dutch waer, Old High German hwar, German wo, Gothic hvar "where"), equivalent to Latin cur, from PIE root *kwo-, stem of relative and interrogative pronouns. Where it's at attested from 1903.
It has figured in a great many prepositional and adverbial compounds through the years; in addition to the ones listed in this dictionary (whereas, wherefore, whereabouts, etc.) English has or had whereagainst, wherefrom, wherehence, whereinsoever, whereinto, wheremid, whereout, whereover, whereso, wheresoever, wherethrough, whereto, whereunder, whereuntil.
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.
"in what place," early 15c., from whereabout + adverbial genitive -s. The noun, "place where someone or something is," is recorded from 1795. Whereabout in this sense is from c. 1600.
updated on March 27, 2014