A Dictionary of the English Language
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About (adverb)

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View Scan · View Transcription · from page 61

Abo'ut. adv.

  1. Circularly.

    The weyward sisters, hand in hand,
    Posters of the sea and land,
    Thus do go about, about,
    Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
    And thrice again to make up nine.
    Shakesp. Macbeth.

  2. In circuit.

    My honest lads, I'll tell you what I am about. — Two yards and more. — No quips now, Pistol: indeed I am in the waste two yards about; but I am about no waste, I am about thrift. Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor.

    A tun about was ev'ry pillar there,
    A polish'd mirrour shone not half so clear.
    Dryd. Fables.

  3. Nearly.

    When the boats were come within about sixty yards of the pillar, they found themselves all bound, and could go no farther; yet so as they might move to go about, but might not approach nearer. Bacon's New Atalantis.

  4. Here and there; every way.

    Up rose the gentle virgin from her place,
    And looked all about, if she might spy
    Her lovely knight to move his manly pace.
    Fairy Queen, b. i. cant. ii. stanz. 33.

    A wolf that was past labour, had the wit in his old age, yet to make the best of a bad game; he borrows a habit, and so about he goes, begging charity from door to door, under the disguise of a pilgrim. L'Estrange.

  5. With to before a verb; as, about to fly; upon the point, within a small distance of.

    These dying lovers, and their floating sons,
    Suspend the sight, and silence all our guns:
    Beauty and youth, about to perish, finds
    Such noble pity in brave English minds.
    Waller.

  6. The longest way, in opposition to the short straight way.

    Gold hath these natures; greatness of weight; closeness of parts; fixation; pliantness, or softness; immunity from rust; colour, or tincture of yellow: Therefore the sure way (though most about) to make gold, is to know the causes of the several natures before rehearsed. Bacon's Natural Hist. № 328.

          Spies of the Volscians
    Held me in chase, that I was forc'd to wheel
    Three or four miles about; else had I, Sir,
    Half an hour since brought my report.
    Shakesp. Coriolanus.

  7. To bring about; to bring to the point or state desired; as, he has brought about his purposes.

    Whether this will be brought about, by breaking his head, I very much question. Spectator.

  8. To come about; to come to some certain state or point.

    Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about, after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son. 1 Sam. i. 20.

    One evening it befel, that looking out,
    The wind they long had wish'd was come about;
    Well pleas'd they went to rest; and if the gale
    'Till morn continu'd, both resolv'd to fail.
    Dyrd. Fables.

  9. To go about a thing; to prepare to do it.

    Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? John vii. 19.

In common language, they say, to come about a man, to circumvent him.

Some of these phrases seem to derive their original from the French à bout; venir à bout d'une chose; venir à bout de quelqu'un.

Sources: The Bible - 1. Samuel (18) · Addison, Joseph (408) · Bacon, Francis (396) · Shakespeare's Coriolanus (80) · Dryden, John (788) · The Bible - John (15) · L'Estrange, Roger (131) · Shakespeare's Macbeth (136) · Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (95) · Spectator (140) · Spenser, Edmund (254) · Waller, Edmund (63)

Attributes: Adverb (147) · French (385)

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Cite this page: Johnson, Samuel. "About (adverb)." A Dictionary of the English Language: A Digital Edition of the 1755 Classic by Samuel Johnson. Edited by Brandi Besalke. Last modified: January 26, 2014. http://johnsonsdictionaryonline.com/?p=755.


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