phrases, sayings, proverbs and idioms at

The meaning and origin of the expression: About turn

About turn

What's the meaning of the phrase 'About turn'?

Change direction.

What's the origin of the phrase 'About turn'?

Originally a military command in the English Army - it is still used in the British Army. The earliest citation in print that I can find is from A Plan of Discipline, Composed for the Use of the Militia, by William Windham and George Townshend, 1760:

When he [the commanding officer] would have them [the battalion] retreat, he either gives the words of command,

To the right about! Turn!

or else orders the drummers to beat the Retreat.

'Turn about' was a common colloquial phrase prior to this, meaning simply 'turn to face the opposite direction'.

See also, 'About face'.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

Browse phrases beginning with:
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T UV W XYZ Full List