34 IDIOMS FOR BUSINESS

idioms plaque

Due to the popularity of our earlier blog post on classroom-based idioms, I have decided to compile some business-based idioms for you advanced business speakers. These are very common in American business and should be understood, and even better, used.


 

Across the board

Means all inclusive, everything, everybody

The company’s number were down across the board in every department.

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Ahead of the curve

Means to be better, more successful or advanced than other companies

With the bestselling product on the market, our company is ahead of the curve in sales.

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Back to square one

Means to start something over again

The students didn`t understand the differences between the two concepts so the teacher started over again, going back to square one.

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Bang for the buck

Means more value or a better pay off for the investment of money spent

Internet advertising is lower priced and more universal giving it more bang for the buck.

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Bring home the bacon

Means to earn money for the family

I work hard bringing home the bacon to support my family.

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Chicken feed

Means a small amount of money     (similar to working for peanuts)

His son always wants to borrow money and says that it is only chicken feed but little by little it adds up to a lot of money.

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Corner the market

Means to have great or the greatest success in a specific market

Online courses are so convenient and growing so fast that, for English learning, they will soon corner the market.

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Crunching numbers

Means to do mathematical calculations

Excel is a great program for crunching numbers.

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Dot your i’s and cross your t’s

Means to be very careful paying attention to every detail

This contract is very important so be sure to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

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Fill the bill

Means to provide just what is needed

His thorough knowledge and experience online will fill the bill to deliver our classes over the internet.

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Foot the bill

Means to cover the cost or payment for something or someone

The leading department in sales often has to foot the bill for the worst department to keep everyone working.

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From the ground up

Means to start something from “zero” and work up to the top

The website was totally redesigned from the ground up.

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Gravy train

Means a job requiring little work for good pay, benefits etc.

The CEO, although never at work, was making millions riding the gravy train.

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Have a stake in something

Means to have a partial ownership of a company or other business or to be somehow invested in something

With all my time, effort and money, I really have a stake in the business.

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In the black

Means to be making a profit.

We are having a great year so our accounts are in the black.

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In the red

Means to not be profitable or operating at a loss.

We owe so much money that our accounts are in the red.

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In the loop / out of the loop

Means to be in or out of the group of people that are informed and up-to-date

Even though I was on vacation, through the internet, my secretary kept me in the loop.

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Jacking up the prices

Means to increase the prices usually drastically

They took advantage of the product demand by jacking up the prices to increase their profits.

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Last straw

Means the last action which causes someone to reach their breaking point, becoming mad, frustrated, or giving up

I gave up because the government’s lack of approval for new business incentives was the last straw.

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Loophole

Means that there is a way of interpreting a law or a rule in order to get around doing the right thing

Politicians are known for finding loopholes to take advantage of the laws.

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On a shoestring

Means to be on a low budget with little money to invest

He built a major corporation up from nothing on a shoestring.

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Pass the buck

Means to put the burden or blame for something on someone else

Many coworkers won’t take responsibility for their mistakes and pass the buck to others.

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Penny-wise and pound foolish

Means to wrongly care about the small details while not worrying about the larger challenges

His department is penny-wise and pound foolish and economizes on small items but wastes their money on big items.

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Plug a product

Means to promote a product usually with a famous celebrity

The company is counting on the fame of the TV star to plug their product.

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Put one’s nose to the grindstone

Means to focus on working hard or purposefully

I put my nose to the grindstone and got this blog post done on time.

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Put someone through the wringer

Means to subject someone or something through intense questioning, testing or scrutiny

The new employee was put through the wringer before they decided to hire him.

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Safe bet

Means something that will most likely occur

It’s a safe bet that we will succeed by working smarter.

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Sell like hotcakes

Means to sell a product quickly and easily due to popularity

The low price of the sought after app helped it sell like hotcakes.

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Strike while the iron is hot

Means to take timely advantage of an opportunity

I will strike while the iron is hot and advertise more while people are talking about my product.

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Throw money at something

Means to spend, and usually waste, money on a solution to a problem

The company went bankrupt because they would always foolishly throw money at the problem without a plan for a solution.

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Under the table

Means to do something off the record and illegally

Some employers pay their employees under the table to avoid paying taxes.

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Work down to the wire

Means to go to the last minute to finish something

She waited until the last minute so she had to finish the work down to the wire.

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Worth his/her salt

Means to earn the monetary value of what one’s professional value is

The new employee, responsible for saving the business, was certainly worth his salt.

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Writing on the wall

Means the signs and indicators, mostly negative, which predict what will happen

Cutting back teacher salaries and letting go employees should be the writing on the wall that they will soon fail.

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So, let’s get down to business and start studying.


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Rob Howard is the owner of Online Language Center. He is a teacher, tutor, trainer, material designer and author for English as a foreign language. He is also a consultant and has been a frequent speaker internationally regarding online retention as well as using technology in and out of the classroom. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts in the U.S., he is currently residing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. You may e-mail him at rob@onlinelanguagecenter.com.

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