20 English Idioms and Phrases That Are Commonly Used in Business

There are many idioms used in the business world. If you don’t understand these expressions, it’s easy to get lost in a conversation...


1. Get one’s foot in the door

Meaning: To get an opening or promising opportunity; to start working at a low level, hoping to progress

Example: An internship might not sound very interesting, but it's a great way to get your foot in the door at this company.

2. On a shoestring

Meaning: With very little money; on a very tight budget

Example: We lived on a shoestring for years before I got a good-paying job. John traveled to Florida on a shoestring.

3. Jump through hoops

Meaning: To do a lot of difficult things before you are allowed to have or do something you want

Example: The boss expects the entire staff to jump through hoops for him.

4. Eager beaver

Meaning: An enthusiastic person who works very hard

Example: Give that big project to the new girl, she's a real eager beaver. 

5. Hold the Fort

Meaning: To have the responsibility for something or care of somebody while other people are away or out

Example: You should open the store at eight o'clock and hold the fort until I get there at ten.

6. Golden handshake

Meaning: A large sum of money that is given to somebody when they leave their job, or to persuade them to leave their job

Example: The company's vice president received a $700,000 golden handshake after being pressured to leave his position.

7. Walking papers

Meaning: The letter or notice dismissing somebody from a job

Example: The boss gave Jame his walking papers for arriving to work late yet again.

8. Cash cow

Meaning: The part of a business that always makes a profit and that provides money for the rest of the business

Example: When Danniel purchased stock in that software company 10 years ago, he never expected it to become such a cash cow.

9. Bet your bottom dollar

Meaning: Bet all one has on something

Example: I would bet my bottom dollar that the accounting manager will be late again today.

10. Get the ball rolling

Meaning: Let’s start

Example: I had the ball rolling, but no one helped me with the project.

11. Low hanging fruit

Meaning: It’s easy to do

Example: People who always want to be the first to buy something, they're low-hanging fruit for this product.

12. Get the bugs out

Meaning: Find the mistakes or prevent problems

Example: I got the bug out of my system and came back and worked hard to build my career..

13. Think outside the box

Meaning: Think of creative, unconventional solutions instead of common ones

Example: OK, team, we really need to think outside the box if we're going to impress the CEO!

14. Hit the ground running

Meaning: We need to start the project well   

Example: We need to hit the ground running with this project

15. All hands on deck

Meaning: Everyone is working extra hard to finish this

Example: All hands on deck! We've got to roll out this tarp before the rain starts. Now let's go!

16. Touch base

Meaning: Let’s speak again next week

Example: John and I touched base on this question yesterday, and we are in agreement.

17. In the black

Meaning: Become profitable opposed to being “in the red”

Example: I wish my accounts were in the black. Sally moved the company into the black.

18. On the ball

Meaning: To be alert and aware

Example: My new personal assistant is working out well. He's really on the ball.

19. Shooting the breeze

Meaning: Talking casually without purpose

Example: We spent the entire afternoon just shooting the breeze

20. Know the ropes

Meaning: Have knowledge of

Example: Don't worry about Sara's taking over that reporter's job-she already knows the ropes.

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20 English Idioms and Phrases That Are Commonly Used in Business

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