In accordance with this rule, it may safely be assumed that the forefathers of Boston had built the first prison-house, somewhere in the vicinity of Cornhill, almost as seasonably as they marked out the first burial-ground, on Isaac Johnson’s lot, and round about his grave, which subsequently became the nucleus of all the congregated sepulchres in the old church- yard of King’s Chapel. Certain it is, …

I am wondering what is the difference between lot and the round about.


Now that I have extracted the following explanations, could you show me an exact answer?I am too confused.

Oxford Learners Dictionary Entry on Plot

lot or plot?

Either a lot or a plot can be used for building on. Only a plot can also be used for growing vegetables or burying people.

  • I agree that plot would more commonly be used for grave, not lot, but I'm not sure going back to the 1700s if that distinction existed (though if you provide the source for that quote it would be helpful). I think some context overall is missing for that.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 20:11

2 Answers 2


A lot is a plot of land (ie, an area of land owned by someone), so in this case specifically referring to the area of ground that his body was buried in (which may have been his land, or just a grave site, that's unclear to me). It could refer to a plot of ground that a house is built on; the lot in that case is the land the house is built on including the yard.

Round about means the (larger) area near to that grave, so not just specifically the grave site, but some (undefined) area around it including many other graves. Here it means the graveyard itself was created around his grave (Isaac Johnson was one of the founders of Massachusetts, so this makes sense). The most clear synonym for round about is near to.

Note, this is entirely distinct from Roundabout, which is a traffic control structure used in intersections.

  • Whenever you see 'round about', think 'around, about'.
    – Damien H
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 3:44
  • "Near to" as a synonym is missing the context of the area all around the point. "The lot is near the interstate and there is traffic congestion round about the entire neighborhood." I also think the original passage used "round about" to indicate the burial grounds weren't just laid out around the grave site, but laid out in a circuitous way.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 20:21
  • I think "round about here" often means only "near to". "I know there's a Starbucks round about here somewhere". You may well be right in the specific context, but it's not clear to me (and I think the phrase is a poor one in general is it's not very specific).
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 20:35
  • @Joe - A phrase like "'round about midnight" or "'round about here" is really a contraction of around I think. Granted, I've never really seen or used "round about" in a formal context like the passage does.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 21:09
  • I understand that, but 'around' doesn't always imply 'circular'. It often just means 'near', with no connotations of 'in the round'. That's in fact because it means 'around' and not really 'round'. I assume the passage is significantly dated given some of the terminology, but not sure.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 21:15

First of all, you need to be aware that in Colonial American times, it was common for families to (a) own a relatively large section of land, and (b) have some (presumably small) portion of it set aside for burying family members, rather than necessarily burying everyone in a community graveyard. Of course there was still a need for a community graveyard, especially in towns and cities; and the passage appears to be discussing the creation of such a graveyard in the early days of the city of Boston.

Bearing that in mind, I believe that the most likely interpretation is that Mr. Johnson's total lot (that is, the entire area of land that he owned) is initially being discussed; the forefathers "marked out the first burial-ground" somewhere on Mr. Johnson's lot. Specifically, they found the location where Mr. Johnson himself was buried, and selected his grave and some large area around it ("round about his grave"), and made that area the first burial-ground.

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