Definition of about-face in English:



  • 1(chiefly in military contexts) a turn made so as to face the opposite direction.

    ‘he did an about-face and marched out of the tent’
    • ‘Then she did an about-face, marched right back into the guy's office, and declared, ‘I have one more thing to say to you: I am your customer.’’
    • ‘He turned a sharp about-face and strode forward.’
    • ‘I suggested a quick about-turn, and started outlining directions for the city centre.’
    • ‘Brakes squealed as the few cars that happened to travel down that road screeched to a stop and promptly did an about-face, quickly driving in the opposite direction.’
    • ‘Motorists at Dr Cullen roundabout were doing an about-turn all this week, as Carlovians caught their first glimpse of the town's latest sculpture.’
    • ‘Marching stiffly across the room he performed a perfect about-turn before slapping his tiny sandalled foot on the clay floor and saluting.’
    • ‘Their chests swelled with pride as they saluted the general, did an about-face, and marched away exuberantly.’
    • ‘Kai turns a sharp about-face and exits, not saying a word to Keetra.’
    • ‘It would mean officers arrive at the station, complete their pocket book and do an about-turn to go straight back out onto the streets.’
    • ‘He took me by surprise by reaching out and squeezing my hand before making a complete about-face and heading into the nearest elevator.’
    • ‘Finally, Wren and I saluted and did an about-face, turning around to face the platoon.’
    • ‘The soldier shook his head, they saluted once again, and he turned a perfect about-face and walked back down the steps to his horse.’
    about-face, volte-face, turnaround, turnround, turnabout, u-turn, rowback
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A complete change of opinion or policy.
      ‘he threatened to stop helping us, but did a complete about-face’
      • ‘Traditionally conservative Singapore is also making a complete about-face.’
      • ‘Now, the Greens are going to turn around and support it; what an about-face!’
      • ‘In an about-turn, Justice Humphrey Stollmeyer ruled in favour on Friday of the four policemen, and ordered that each receive $100,000 in damages.’
      • ‘Either way it is an accurate account of what happened to Orwell's thinking: this was an about-face, a real or metaphoric overnight conversion.’
      • ‘Tewkesbury borough councillors have done an about-turn and withdrawn their support for the county council's controversial one-way system in Tewkesbury High Street.’
      • ‘At this crucial period of their lives they were surrounded by people who, in very many cases, undertook a complete about-turn with regard to their social and political views.’
      • ‘Lil looked up, surprised by the complete about-face he had just done.’
      • ‘The sale of the marine shipping assets represents an about-face in direction for BC Rail in recent years.’
      • ‘That one was so outrageous that it antagonized the entire civilized world, and undoubtedly contributed to the Europeans' about-face on lifting military sanctions against China.’
      • ‘There is nothing intrinsically wrong with politicians doing an about-face, even when the reversal is as stunning as this one.’
      • ‘But I can't come up with any other force besides the president that would be strong enough to make the military do an about-face.’
      • ‘Last March, Eircom did an about-turn in strategy and announced that it was planning to spin off part of its multimedia businesses into a new company and float the resulting entity on the stock market.’
      • ‘The party's recent troubles following the policy about-face on the reform of the grassroots financial institutions illustrates the problem.’
      • ‘More important than his about-face in the context of my analysis is Rethel's awareness of his own position as artist.’
      • ‘Sweden announced on Friday that it is seeking restrictions on workers from the incoming members, including its Baltic neighbours, following about-turns from the Dutch, Danes and Greeks.’
      • ‘The decision marks an abrupt about-turn for the board.’
      • ‘In Germany, the food scare has sparked an about-face on agricultural policy.’
      • ‘The abrupt about-face followed mounting public opposition, protests calling for her resignation and growing pressure from her own allies.’
      • ‘I simply say to the member opposite that he has done an absolute about-face.’
      • ‘The economy's sudden about-face serves as a dramatic reminder that such changes can be both large and unpredictable, rendering budget projections obsolete before the ink in which they are written has begun to dry.’
      reversal, retraction, backtracking, swing, shift, swerve, u-turn, volte-face, turnaround, turnround
      View synonyms


  • Turn so as to face the opposite direction.

    • ‘So with the number of options diminishing, and last orders long since called, we reluctantly about-faced and came out the same way.’
    • ‘She nods frantically, distractedly, ponytail slicing a semi-circle through the air as she about-faces for a new strip of floor to stomp across.’
    • ‘Peterson sneered, then about-faced and walked back into the Oval Office.’
    • ‘Suddenly she about-faced and grappled him into the undergrowth.’
    • ‘I about-faced, marched from the porch and started for the road.’
    • ‘He glanced around for a moment to make sure no one was around, then about-faced and began walking away.’
    • ‘But she must have said something terribly outrageous, indicated in some obvious way that things weren't altogether normal, because he immediately about-faced and ran in the opposite direction.’
    • ‘But the optimism rapidly evaporated with his abrupt about-face a few days later.’
    • ‘The customary smirk returned to Trey's lips and he about-faced, coming closer to the nervous young man.’
    • ‘Hugh about-turned, and headed in the opposite direction to be met with a similar fate.’
    • ‘But going by the poor performance trends in the growth of the sector, the government had by 1997 about-turned and abandoned the liberalisation of fertiliser and fixed the prices for the whole of the country.’
    • ‘He saw Stella, blushed and twirled his hair around with a pencil, and then about-turned sharpish back out of the room.’
    • ‘We about-face and paddle back against the wind to Hoover Dam.’
    • ‘With that she about-faced and led me out of the room.’
    • ‘It's bad enough that a company which had previously welcomed Matthew's efforts about-faced and got nasty.’
    • ‘I about-faced, and it was him: braids replaced by a processed pageboy, teale-and-black basketball jersey, baggy olive-drab shorts.’
    • ‘The big dog otter probably got as much of a fright as he did, about-turned and leapt into the water.’
    • ‘I was ready to about-face and let him drag me home when I noticed an imposing shape in the distance.’
    • ‘Short of the fall of the iron curtain, few world leaders have ever about-faced so fast.’
    about-face, turn around, turn round, turn about, do a u-turn, reverse, row back
    View synonyms


about face!
  • (in military contexts) a command to make an about-face.

    • ‘Finally, looking back he said, ‘O soldiers of Kalinjar, right about turn!’’
    change, move
    View synonyms


Late 19th century (originally as a military command): shortening of right about turn.