A Dictionary of the English Language
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About (preposition)

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 60, 61

View Scan · View Transcription · from pages 60, 61

Abo'ut. prep. [abuꞇan, or abuꞇon, Sax. which seems to signify encircling on the outside.]

  1. Round, surrounding, encircling.

    Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thy heart. Proverbs, iii. 3.

            At this she loudly shrieks,
    'Tis he, 'tis he, she cries, and tears her cheeks,
    Her hair, her vest; and, stooping to the sands,
    About his neck she cast her trembling hands.
    Dryd. Fables

  2. Near to.

    Speak unto the congregation, saying, get you up from about the tabernacle of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Exodus

            Thou dost nothing, Sergius,
    Thou canst endeavour nothing, nay, not think;
    But I both see and hear it; and am with thee,
    By and before, about and in thee too.
    Benj. Johns. Catiline.

  3. Concerning, with regard to, relating to.

    When Constantine had finished an house for the service of God at Jerusalem, the dedication he judged a matter not unworthy; about the solemn performance whereof, the greatest part of the bishops in christendom should meet together. Hooker, b. v. § 12.

    The painter is not to take so much pains about the drapery as about the face, where the principle resemblance lies. Dryd. Pref. to Dufresnoy.

    They are most frequently used as words equivalent, and do both of them indifferently signify either a speculative knowledge of things, or a practical skill about them, according to the exigency of the matter or thing spoken of. Tillot. Sermon i.

    Theft is always a sin, although the particular species of it, and the denomination of particular acts, doth suppose positive laws about dominion and property. Stillingfleet's Defence of Discourses on Romish Idolatry.

    They should always be heard, and fairly and kindly answered, when they ask after any thing they would know, and desire to be informed about. Curiosity should be as carefully cherished in children, as other appetites suppressed. Locke on Education, § 108.

    It hath been practised as a method of making men's court, when they are asked about the rate of lands, the abilities of tenants, the state of trade and manufacture, to answer, that, in their neighbourhood, all things are in a flourishing condition. Swift's short View of Ireland.

  4. Engaged in, employed upon.

    Our blessed Lord was pleased to command the representation of his death and sacrifice on the cross, should be made by braking of bread and effusion of wine; to signify to us the nature and sacredness of the liturgy we are about. Taylor's Worthy Communicant.

    Labour, for labour's sake, is against nature. The understanding, as well as all the other faculties, chooses always the shortest way to its end, would presently obtain the knowledge it is about, and then set upon some new enquiry. But this, whether laziness or haste, often misleads it. Locke.

    They ought, however, to be provided with secretaries, and assisted by our foreign ministries, to tell their story for them in plain English, and to let us know, in our mother-tongue, what it is our brave countrymen are about. Addison. Spect. № 309.

  5. Appendant to the person; as, cloaths, &c.

            If you have this about you,
    As I will give you when we go, you may
    Boldly assault the necromancer's hall.
    Milton's Comus.

    It is not strange to me, that persons of the fairer sex should like, in all things about them, that handsomeness for which they find themselves most liked. Boyle on Colours.

  6. Relating to the person, as a servant.

    Liking very well the young gentleman, such I took him to be, admitted this Deiphantus about me, who well shewed, there is no service like his that serves because he loves. Sidney, b. ii

    Good master, corporal, captain, for my old dame's sake, stand my friend: she hath no body to do anything about her when I am gone, and she is old and cannot help herself. Shakespeare's Henry IV. p. ii.

Sources: Addison, Joseph (408) · Boyle, Robert (84) · Dryden, John (788) · The Bible - Exodus (25) · Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 2 (72) · Hooker, Richard (175) · Jonson, Ben (70) · Locke, John (269) · Milton, John (449) · The Bible - Proverbs (19) · Sidney, Philip (140) · Stillingfleet, Edward (38) · Swift, Jonathan (306) · Taylor, Jeremy (57) · Tillotson, John (68)

Attributes: Preposition (8) · Saxon (215)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "About (preposition)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: June 8, 2014. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=746.


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