Commonly used Business English Idioms!
Hey People! I know it is just restless being at home for most of you. Hope this blog post keeps you occupied for a while.
This is a compilation of Commonly used Business English Idioms that is on the syllabus for Business Writing under the course BA English Literature triple main (Communicative English with Journalism). You could just read it to improve your English or just to kill time! Tell me what your favorite idiom is in the comments section!
I used these links/online dictionaries to get the meanings. So I am guessing there’s zero percentage of something being wrong here!
42 Business English Idioms!
- Get a/your foot in the door
To enter a business or organization at a low level, but with a chance of being more successful in the future. Eg: Making contacts can help you get a foot in the door when it comes to getting a job.
- Cash cow
1: A consistently profitable business, property, or product whose profits are used to finance a company's investments in other areas 2: One regarded or exploited as a reliable source of money Eg: The football team was a cash cow for the university. The movie studio saw the actress as a cash cow.
- Too many chiefs and not enough Indians
Too many managers and not enough people to do the work. Everyone on that committee wants to be in charge. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Eg: We'll never finish this project if everyone keeps trying to give orders. There are too many chiefs and not enough Indians.
- Eager beaver
1. A person who is willing to work very hard 2. Someone who is very eager to perform tasks and is always offering to do more 3. A person who does more than what is expected of them 4. Someone who is very excited about something Eg: Don’t be such an eager beaver, we have plenty of time to complete the task.
- A slice of the pie
A portion of the money or profits that are being shared by everyone involved in generating them. Eg: The employees applauded when the boss announced everyone was getting a slice of the pie in the form of a holiday bonus.
- Go belly up
To die/to fail/shut down a business/go bankrupt Eg: Many companies went belly up during the great inflation.
- Golden handshake
A large severance package given to an executive who leaves a company due to termination, corporate restructuring, or retirement. Eg: The company's vice president received a $500,000 golden handshake after being pressured to leave his position.
- Grease sb’s palm
To give someone money secretly so that they will make things happen in the way that you want. Eg: They managed to pull off the deal without greasing any palms.
- Hold down the fort (hold the fort)
To deal with a situation or do someone's job, while they are away. Eg: She went off on vacation, leaving me to hold down the fort.
- keep your head above water
To try to manage a difficult situation, especially when it involves a lot of work or a lack of money. Eg: The business has lurched from one financial crisis to another but we have managed to keep our heads above water.
- Red tape
Official rules and processes that seem unnecessary and delay results. Eg: We must cut through the red tape.
- (someone) Could sell ice to Eskimos (Sell ice to eskimos)
Someone is an extremely smooth, charming, or persuasive salesperson, such that they could sell something to people who have no need or use for it. Eg: I can't believe you were able to sell an extra 200 units to the hospital. You could sell ice to Eskimos!
- Sleeping partner
Someone who is closely associated or involved with a business or corporation, typically through financial investment, and therefore shares in its risks and rewards, but does not participate in its day-to-day operations and management. Eg: Dave's father agreed to be a sleeping partner when we started our company, leaving us to run it once it was set up.
- Walking papers
A notice of dismissal from one's employment or an order to leave or move on from a place/a notice of being fired, released, divorced, etc. Eg: After messing up that account, I'm terrified that I'm going to get my walking papers any day now.
- Dead duck
1. A person or thing that is useless or hopeless. Eg: That mechanic turned out to be a dead duck. He didn't even know how to change my oil. 2. Someone who is about to be in a great deal of trouble for something they have done. Eg: When Mom finds out you snuck out of the house to meet your boyfriend, you're going to be a dead duck!
- Ahead of the curve
1. Better than average. Eg: I'm not sure how I did on that exam, but I think I'll end up ahead of the curve. 2. At the forefront of or leading in something, such as a developing situation, field of study or business, social development, etc. Eg: The new professor is way ahead of the curve with his research into genetics.
- Tough break
An adverse circumstance resulting in misfortune or hardships; an instance of bad luck. Eg: John's had some tough breaks lately, between losing his job and getting in that horrible car accident just two weeks later.
- At stake
In jeopardy of being won or lost, or in the process of being determined as a positive or negative outcome. Eg: My presentation needs to go perfectly—the big promotion is at stake.
- Back to square one
Back to the very first stage of something; returned to an initial starting point. Eg: We'll have to go back to square one if the government pulls our funding on this project.
- Back to the drawing board
Back to the planning stage/start again on a new design or plan after the failure of an earlier attempt/back to the beginning because the current attempt was unsuccessful. Eg: My experiment was a failure, so I'm back to the drawing board.
- Backroom deal
Done secretly or without attracting attention. Eg: They did a last-minute backroom deal with the union negotiators.
- Behind the scenes
Without being widely known or attracting attention. Referring to the private portion of a venue, operation, or production, as opposed to the public part. Eg: Let's have a round of applause for all the people who worked behind the scenes to give us such a great event!
Relating to people who work in offices, doing work that needs mental rather than physical effort. Eg: The company plans to cut 1,450 white-collar jobs as part of a restructuring.
Relating to people who do physical work rather than mental work, and who usually do not work in an office.
- By the book
Exactly according to rules or the law. Eg: The lawyers want to make sure we've done everything strictly by the book.
- Corner a Market
1. To own a significant enough amount of a stock to be able to manipulate its price. 2. To have the greatest market share in a particular industry without having a monopoly.
- Cut (one’s) losses
To stop an action that has resulted in loss or failure or leave a failing situation before it gets worse. Eg: Man,this venture is going nowhere—I think we're better off cutting our losses than agreeing to rent this space for another year.
- From the ground up
From the first step through to completion; entirely. Eg: This place is a real dump—we'll have to rebuild it from the ground up.
- Diamond in the rough
A person or thing with exceptional qualities or characteristics that cannot be seen from the surface. Eg: The new employee initially seemed to lack confidence, but after seeing how hard he works, we realized that he's a diamond in the rough and is really a great asset to the company.
- Get the ball rolling
To set something, often a process, in motion; to begin. Eg: I think it will be easier to become comfortable driving now that I've gotten the ball rolling with driving lessons.
- In a nutshell
In summary; concisely. Eg: In a nutshell, the app helps you to plan parties.
- Learn the ropes
To learn or understand the basic details of how to do or perform a job, task, or activity. Eg: We have a few high-priority projects we need to get done now, so you'll need to learn the ropes on your own.
- (The) Elephant in the room
An obvious truth or fact, especially one regarded as embarrassing or undesirable, that is being intentionally ignored or left unaddressed. Eg: We all sat sipping our tea quietly; no one wanting to bring up the elephant in the room about Joel's expulsion from college.
- The writing is on the wall / (The handwriting is on the wall)
Said to mean that there are clear signs that something will fail or no longer exist.
- Leave no stone unturned
Search thoroughly and exhaustively. Eg: "The police left no stone unturned in looking for the President's murderer"
- Lend an ear (to one)
To listen to one, especially when they are discussing a problem. Eg: Sorry I'm late, I had to lend an ear to Jane. She's been going through a lot lately.
- The salt of the earth
A person or group that is regarded as genuine, unpretentious, and morally sound. This phrase is typically complimentary. Eg: Don't worry, even with all his success, Robert is still the salt of the earth. He donates most of his salary to charity and volunteers weekly at the hospital.
- Walk on air
To be in a state of extreme happiness. Eg: I've been walking on air ever since I got engaged!
A complete change of opinion or belief. The phrase comes from the Italian term 'voltafaccia'. Eg: Everyone was surprised when the candidate made a complete volte-face on her stance on taxes.
- Slam dunk
1. (Literal)[in basketball] a goal scored by shooting the ball down from above the rim. Eg: He was wide open and scored on an easy slam dunk. 2. (Figurative) an action or accomplishment that is easily done. Eg: Finishing that project with all his experience should be a slam dunk for George.
- Ward off someone/something
To keep someone or something away or prevent something from happening or harming you. Eg: He used his umbrella to ward off the fierce sun.
- State of threat
A situation where someone is under a threat, something bad or unpleasant could happen.