About face


      • change in direction or opinion
        To make a sudden reversal or change in one's stance or decision, often without warning

      • retreat or reverse course
        To turn around and retreat, often in an organized or military manner

      • drastic change
        To undergo a complete transformation or reversal in behavior, attitude, or appearance

    Examples of About face

    • The army suddenly changed their plans and marched in the opposite direction, causing confusion among the troops. The commanding officer shouted, "About face!" and the soldiers quickly turned around.

      "About face" is a military idiom that means to turn around 180 degrees, typically in response to a command. It is used to indicate a sudden change in direction or strategy. In this example, the army's original plans were abandoned, and they had to reverse course. The use of "about face" adds a sense of urgency and order to the situation, as the soldiers immediately follow the command.2. Barking up the wrong tree

    • The detective spent hours questioning the wrong suspect, chasing after leads that didn't pan out. He realized he was "barking up the wrong tree" and decided to start over.

      "Barking up the wrong tree" is a figurative expression that means pursuing a course of action that is unlikely to succeed. It is derived from the idea of a dog barking at a tree that does not contain the prey it is seeking. In this example, the detective was wasting his time investigating the wrong person, and he had to start his investigation anew.3. Beat around the bush

    • The politician avoided answering the question directly, instead "beating around the bush" with vague statements and irrelevant details.

      "Beat around the bush" is a phrase that means to avoid addressing a topic directly or evading a question. It is derived from the idea of a person circling around a bush instead of going straight through it. In this example, the politician was being evasive and unclear in his responses, making it difficult for the audience to understand his position.4. Break a leg

    • Before going on stage, the actor's friends wished him luck, saying, "Break a leg!" as a superstitious way of saying "Good luck!"

      "Break a leg" is a humorous expression that is often used as a substitute for "Good luck!" It is derived from the idea that bad luck often comes in threes, and the speaker is jokingly wishing the person three misfortunes, including a broken leg. In this example, the speaker is using the expression in a lighthearted way to wish the actor success in his performance.5. Bite the bullet

    • The surgeon told the patient that the operation would be painful, but it was necessary. The patient steeled himself and "bit the bullet," knowing that the discomfort would be temporary.

      "Bite the bullet" is a phrase that means to endure pain or discomfort with determination and courage. It is derived from the idea of a person biting down on a bullet to lessen the pain of a wound. In this example, the patient was facing a difficult and uncomfortable situation, but he was able to find the strength to persevere. The use of "bite the bullet" adds a sense of grit and fortitude to the situation.


    The idiom "about face" is primarily used to convey a change in direction, whether literal or figurative. It can refer to a sudden reversal in opinion or decision, a retreat or reversal of course, or a drastic change in behavior or appearance. The common thread among all these meanings is a shift or turnaround from one direction to another.

    In some cases, the phrase may also carry a connotation of impulsiveness or unpredictability, as the reversal or change is often sudden and unexpected. It can also imply a sense of disorganization or chaos, as in the case of a hasty retreat or a complete transformation.

    Origin of "About face"

    The phrase "about face" has its origins in military terminology. It is derived from the command given to soldiers to turn 180 degrees, which is "about face." This command is used to signal a change in direction, typically during drills or formations.

    Over time, the term "about face" has been adopted into everyday language to convey a sudden change or reversal. It is often used in a figurative sense, but still retains its military origins and connotations of discipline and order.

    The idiom has also been popularized through its use in literature and media, further solidifying its place in the English language. Today, it is commonly used in both formal and informal contexts to express a shift or transformation in direction or opinion.