I work as a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ever since starting work, I've noticed people using the word "around" where I'd say "about" or "on" for example:

"I have a question around metrics."

"Can you forward me the thread around developer engagement?"

"The company has been doing a lot of work around diversity and inclusion."

I feel like I never really heard this usage growing up in Pennsylvania, or in university in St. Louis, but it seems pervasive here. I particularly hear it from executives and product managers who work in the tech industry.

My questions are:

  1. Is this common everywhere and I just failed to notice it?
  2. If not, is it regional, industry-specific, or specific to a professional context?

Google ngrams suggests that the phrase "questions around", which is a kind of maker for this usage, has really spiked in the last 20 years.

  • You apparently led a sheltered life. Figurative uses going back to 1912, if not earlier.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 19, 2018 at 0:45
  • I wish Hot Licks was mistaken, and I suspect huge numbers, if not the majority of people Ould rather follow herd fashion than think about what they're saying. Mar 19, 2018 at 19:47
  • Thanks for the comment Hot Licks, but I don't think the figurative "centers around" is quite the same usage as the quotes I gave. I think WS2's definition of "around" meaning "concerning" is much closer. The older uses of "questions around" I see in the Google N-Grams search are mostly things like "asking questions around the table" which use "around" in the physical sense, so I figured it was worth asking a question (and was not disappointed!)
    – Troy
    Mar 20, 2018 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


What you are talking about here is OED (Oxford English Dictionary) prepositional sense B11. Its first reference is from 1897.

  1. In reference or relation to; concerning, about.

1897 Punch 29 May 263/3 Essence of Parliament... Useful, but not precisely alluring, debate around Employers' Liability Bill.

1938 Wisconsin Libr. Bull. July 133/1 The rather outstanding feature throughout the> programs was the discussion around the larger problems of rural service.

1970 M. A. Cook Stud. in Econ. Hist. Middle East (1978) 278 (note) The..publication..has stimulated discussion around pre-capitalist economic formations of the non-European type.

1991 B.> Moon Guide National Curriculum (ed. 3) vi. 75 At the heart of the> controversy was the debate around history as ‘content’ versus ‘skills’.

2013 Church Times 20 Sept. 34/4 Her biblical reflections..are thought provoking, and will..act as a stimulus to further biblical enquiry around the themes of justice and hospitality.

  • 1
    Well thanks, I guess, for pulling the rug out from under another of my pet peeves.
    – Phil Sweet
    Mar 18, 2018 at 23:59

I don't find mention of this usage in the Online Etymology Dictionary.

I think the closest usage in the American Heritage Dictionary would be:

  1. In such a way as to have a basis or center in: an economy focused around farming and light industry.

And in the New Oxford American Dictionary:

  1. c. Used to describe a situation in terms of the relation between people, actions, or events: It was he who was attacking her, not the other way around.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.