In the following context (excerpt from this answer):

They're examples of the double genitive/possessive, which is perfectly valid and has been around in English for centuries. The "of" already denotes "possession", but we do this again when we use mine/his instead of me/him.

I think has been around means exists in this context, but I can't confirm it. I tried to look it up in the dictionaries, but with no luck except as follows: From Wiktionary, have been around the block is an alternative form of verb phrase to have been around, which idiomatically means "To be experienced in worldly matters; to be seasoned, not naive." From Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the 13th entry for around (have been around, informal) is

a) to have had experience of many different situations so that you can deal with new situations confidently : [eg] You could tell this guy had been around a bit by the knowing way he talked.
b) to have had many sexual experiences – used humorously

Can anyone help me to confirm that has been around means exists in the context I quoted?

  • I'm biased, obviously, but the specific issue raised in your linked question is particularly tantalising to me, and I'm still trying to get to the bottom of it without having much success as yet. I don't know what the linguistic equivalent of an earworm should be called, but identifying the principles behind "double possessive" usage has certainly become one of those for me! Jan 17, 2012 at 14:33
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    Your own definition of "exist" is good, as are the definitions from the Longman dictionary. I would emphasize that the last definition, referring to sexual history, is the first one that I thought of when I saw the title of your question, and while it may be humorous it's also quite derogatory, so use with care!
    – Julia
    Jan 18, 2012 at 0:36

3 Answers 3


Yes, has been around means 'has been in existence'. The OED gives only ‘to have gained much experience in the world’ but in practice the expression is used rather more widely, if only in informal contexts.

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    Taking the words at face value (and why not?) it seems fair to say there can often be a suggestion of "peripherally" in the usage. Seeing I was the original writer in OP's specific case (and that I sometimes side with Humpty Dumpty on matters semantic), I think I could reasonably claim that was what I intended to convey. Actually, the truth is I knew it had existed - but I didn't know how prevalent the usage was, and thus couldn't back up using the word common. So in reality it was a slightly "weasly" choice of word! Jan 17, 2012 at 14:21
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    Or it could mean "formerly chubby" but of course it doesn't. Jan 17, 2012 at 20:42

The use of "around" as an adverb meaning literally "in one's present location" and metaphorically "in one's present situation" is attested in Merriam-Webster:

around adv \ə-ˈrau̇nd\ 2 c : in or near one's present place or situation <wait around awhile>

Thus your example sentence:

[The double genitive/possessive] is perfectly valid and has been around in English for centuries.

should be understood to mean:

[The double genitive/possessive] is perfectly valid and has been in its present place or situation in English for centuries.


The reason why around means "in or near one's present place or situation" (thanks, MetaEd) is because it's really a round. I.e, a circle is involved, centered on the object of around. If around is intransitive, as it is here (i.e, it has no object), then its object is assumed to be the speaker. So around by itself means around me or around here.

This is what around means:

Stand up, look straight ahead, turn to the left or right and keep looking straight ahead; continue turning in the same direction, observing what's in front of you, until you have returned to your starting point. You have turned a round, or around, and everything you have seen is what's around you, or just what's around.

Dictionary definitions frequently don't distinguish the basic meanings from specific usages and extensions of terms.

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