Language & Culture: Business Idioms

Business Idioms

Author: Admin Post date: 19-01-2018

Here is business idioms most commonly used:


  • A full plate – a lot of work to do or problems to deal with.
    Example: The company accountant had a full plate completing the income tax forms by the deadline. 
  • Bang for the buck – value for money; performance for cost.
    Example: Time Warner Cable, Co. gave more bang for the buck to the customer by bundling prices for their television, video and phone services.


  • Belt tightening – the introduction of rigorous reductions in spending.
    Example: When demand for computers decreased, the computer company had to do some belt tightening.



  • Blew it all – to spoil your chance of achieving something because of what you say or do
    Example: The marketing director spent his entire budget; he blew it all on digital advertising.



  • Bounce back – to return to a good condition; to recover from a blow or defeat.
    Example: The stock market will hopefully bounce back in the New Year.



  • Bring home the bacon – to earn a living, especially for a family; to achieve desired results; have success.
    Example: David was bringing home the bacon when his boss doubled his salary for being such a devoted employee.



  • Compare apples to oranges – compare two unlike things to make an invalid comparison.
    Example: You really shouldn’t think that sales in a rural area would equal sales in some of the largest urban regions of the world. That’s like comparing apples to oranges.



  • Compare apples to apples – compare two similar things.
    Example: In exploring options for expanding the company, the Board of Directors hired different architects to compare apples to apples about the cost of the expansion.



  • Fast track a project – make priority; speed up the time frame.
    Example: The boss said that we need to fast track the construction project and finish before winter.



  • Keep our heads above water – to manage to survive, especially financially; to keep up with one’s work.
    Example: In this economy, the hotel chain tried to keep their heads above water. They added an outdoor patio in hopes to attract more customers.



  • Money to burn – to have a lot of money to spend on things that are not necessary.
    Example: The manager had a lot of money to burn so he redecorated his office.



  • On good ground – safe with; having big consequences; large in scope; great.
    Example: We were on good ground with the adjacent company.



  • Out of line with – not consistent with; not at the same level as.
    Example: If your pay is out of line with your peers’ pay, it’s time to make an appointment with the boss.



  • Pay top dollar – to pay a lot of money for something.
    Example: The customer paid top dollar for the new car with all of the gadgets.



  • Pick your brains – obtain information by questioning someone who is better informed about a subject than oneself.
    Example: There was a brainstorming session to pick everyone’s brains for a new name for the company.



  • Play it by ear – to do something by feel and instinct rather than with a plan, to improvise.
    Example: The meeting would be held on Thursday or Friday but we would have to play it by ear.



  • Price skyrocketed – increases quickly to a very high level or amount.
    Example: The real estate prices seem to have skyrocketed this past year.



  • Reality check – to think realistically about the situation.
    Example: Let’s have a reality check and see if the company needs to cut back on its employees’ hours as the profits are just not there.



  • Red tape – obstructive official routine or procedure; time-consuming bureaucracy.
    Example: In order to get permission to expand the project, there was a lot of red tape to go through.



  • Rule of thumb – a useful principle having wide application but not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable in every situation.
    Example: The general rule of thumb was to wear more casual clothes on Fridays.



  • To be hit hard by – to suffer losses due to something.
    Example: We were all hit hard by the recent recession.



  • To keep under wraps – to keep secret.
    Example: We’re going to give Susan a 20% pay increase next month, but let’s keep that under wraps for now.



  • To pay a premium – to pay a higher price for something because it’s a better quality or has a better brand, for instance.
    Example: You’ll pay a premium for coffee at that shop, but I am sure you will enjoy it.



  • Uphill battle – a difficult fight.
    Example: It was an uphill battle to get the extra vacation day approved.



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