Let’s take a look at some of the most common business idioms and expressions used in English in alphabetical order. This page contains the idioms from A – C with picture examples.
Don’t forget to click on the links at the bottom for the rest.
business idioms and expressions beginning with D
Let’s kick this huge list off with common business idioms and expressions beginning with ‘D’.
- debt-ridden – owe lots of money, have lots of debt
There are lots of debt-ridden countries in the world.
- deep pockets – have lots of money
We can’t spend too much on advertising. We’re a new business with not very deep pockets.
- diamond in the rough – top quality but needs a polish/refinement
I went to a gig last night; the singer was a diamond in the rough.
- do a roaring trade – sell lots of goods very quickly
Our cheese stall did a roaring trade at the summer fete. We sold out within two hours.
- dog-eat-dog world – ruthless unethical behaviour used to become successful in the working world
Being a banker is a dog-eat-dog world. I’m thinking of quitting for the simple life.
- donkey work – the hard/boring work
Once all the donkey work is out of the way, we can relax a bit.
- downtime – periods of time when production/machinery/equipment is stopped
If we buy two brand new machines, we’ll reduce downtime by 17%.
- draw a line under – agree not to discuss/think about a particular issue and forget about it
I wish Mike and Lilly would draw a line under their silly feud.
- draw first blood – the first person to score/succeed/attack
The greens have drawn first blood, this is going to be one hell of a match.
- drive a hard bargain – be good at negotiating for one’s own gain
Don’t pay more than £400. That shop has a reputation for driving a hard bargain.
- drop someone a line – contact someone by phone or writing
Alex said drop him a line if you want to do something this weekend.
- drop the ball – make a mistake, neglect someone/something
I dropped the ball! The buyer pulled out last minute, I’m in big trouble.
- dummy run – a practice/trial before the real thing
We did a dummy run, but it didn’t work.
business idioms and expressions beginning with E
- eager beaver – a keen/enthusiastic person
The new trainee is an eager beaver, she has volunteered for lots of projects already.
- easy come, easy go – not bothered about losing something (especially money)
My girlfriend dumped me, easy come, easy go
- elbow grease – hard physical work
It looks like you put a lot of elbow grease into cleaning the kitchen.
- elephant in the room – a controversial issue that is obvious but ignored
When are we going to talk about the elephant in the room? Our growing debt.
- etched/set in stone – permanent/fixed/can’t be changed
The contract isn’t set in stone, we can still make some tweaks.
business idioms and expressions beginning with F
- face value – the value indicated or accept what someone says without questioning
Don’t take what Eric says at face value, he lies a lot
- feather one’s nest – get a lot of money out of something
She only wants the job to feather her nest. She doesn’t care about the children.
- fifty-fifty – divide something equally
Any profits we make will be divided fifty-fifty between me and mark.
- fighting chance – a small possibility of success after a struggle
I want to give my marriage a fighting chance, so I’ve agreed to stop drinking.
- figure someone/something out – solve a problem/try to understand
I can’t figure out the new kid, there is something strange about him.
- fill someone in – inform someone of the most up to date information/details
Karen filled me in on everything you discussed at the meeting.
- fine-tune – make small adjustments for optimum performance/efficiency
I need to fine-tune my best man’s speech.
- fly by the seat of one’s pants – use common sense/judgement/instinct instead of following a strict plan
My cousin has no plans for the future. He just flies by the seat of his pants.
- fly off the shelves – sell very quickly
I need to be up early to go and buy the new FIFA game. It’ll fly off the shelves.
- for a song – very cheap
I wasn’t going to have a holiday this year, but I found one for a song online.
- free rein – freedom to do or say whatever you like
I’m cooking for my friends tonight, I’ve got free rein of the kitchen.
- free ride – reap the benefits without putting in any effort
My neighbour doesn’t work, he likes a free ride off the state.
- from day one – from the very beginning I was strict with my children from day one.
They have turned into lovely young men.
- from the ground up – from the beginning to completion
The dog ate my coursework, I need to do it again from the ground up.
- front-runner – a leading contestant/team in a competition
Roger Federer is one of the front runners in Wimbledon this year.
- funny business – dishonest/naughty behaviour
The accounts don’t add up. I think there’s been some funny business going on.
business expressions beginning with G
- gain ground – make progress, become more popular/widely known
Wilkins is gaining ground over Newman. He might be able to overtake him on the final lap.
- game plan – a strategy for reaching a goal
My new restaurant isn’t making a profit, I need a new game plan.
- get down to business – start doing something with seriousness and determination
Let’s have a quick coffee break, then we’ll get down to business.
- get fired – be dismissed from your job
Did you hear about Katie? She got fired for stealing.
- get into the swing of things – become accustomed to/comfortable with something
I’ve been in my new job for a few weeks now. I’m just starting to get into the swing of things.
- get one’s hands dirty – do hard/manual work or something illegal
Karl will help you dig the hole, he loves getting his hands dirty.
- get something off the ground – start operating/functioning
We need to get this project off the ground ASAP.
- get the boot/get given the boot – get fired from your job
If you don’t stop mucking around and do some work, you’ll get the boot.
- get the sack – be dismissed from your job
If you continue to be late, you’ll get the sack.
- get the show on the road – begin/start doing something
I’ll grab my coat and we can get the show on the road.
- get the wrong end of the stick – misunderstand something
Holly has got the wrong end of the stick. It’s not a date, just two friends having coffee.
- get to grips with something – comprehend, understand the situation, start to deal with a problem
I’ve blitzed the bathroom, now I’ll get to grips with the kitchen.
- get/give the lowdown – hear/tell someone the most important truthful facts
I heard Pete and Marge are getting divorced, get the lowdown when you see him at the footie.
- get/set the ball rolling – start a process
I want to sell my house. I’ll call the estate agent and get the ball rolling tomorrow.
- give someone a heads up – warn someone of impending difficulty/danger
Can you give Leon a heads up if the fuel gets below 20%?
- give someone a run for their money – almost as good as the opposition
My 3-year-old twins are giving me a run for my money.
- give someone the boot – fire/dismiss someone from their job
Someone has been stealing from me. When I find out who, I’ll give them the boot.
- give something one’s best shot – try your best
He gave it his best shot, but unfortunately, he didn’t get the job.
- give the green light – permit/allow
The council have given the green light for a new school to be built.
- go belly up – go spectacularly wrong
My new business venture went belly up in the first 6 months. I’m back working in a factory.
- go down the drain – fail, disappear, be destroyed
My marriage went down the drain a long time ago.
- go for broke – put all your effort/resources into one thing in the hope of great success
Rangers are going for broke in the final 15 minutes. They desperately need a draw
- go full circle – return to the original situation/circumstance where you first started
Terry’s career is going full circle. He’s about to start managing his first ever club again.
- go out of business – a company stops trading and closes
If you continue to give out free products, I’ll go out of business.
- go overboard – be too excessive/extreme
You’ve bought 16 bottles of wine for 5 people? You always go overboard.
- go round in circles – do something for a long time without progressing
I can’t find a solution, I’m just going round in circles.
- go round the houses – a very long complicated way of reaching a conclusion
I hate Mr. Oxley’s classes. He always goes round the houses and makes it difficult.
- go the extra mile – make an extra effort to achieve something
Lauren is a good nurse. She always goes the extra mile to make patients feel at ease.
- go through the roof – prices/figures get extremely high or suddenly get mad/angry/excited
Petrol prices have gone through the roof recently. I need a car with a smaller engine.
- going places – a person who is likely to become successful
Henry has so many business ideas. He’s going places.
- golden handshake – a large sum of money given to someone retiring/being made redundant
My dad got a very generous golden handshake. He is going to buy a house in Spain.
- golden opportunity – a perfect chance, an ideal moment
House prices are really low. It’s a golden opportunity to get on the property ladder.
- grass roots – ordinary people in society/an organisation
To get a real opinion, we need to ask the grass roots.
- grease one’s palm – pay someone in exchange for information, favours, influence etc.
I greased the waiter’s hand, and he gave us the best table.
- grey area – not clearly defined, unclear
We’re not sure who is meant to be doing the ordering, it’s a grey area.
- ground-breaking – innovative, new, original
Ground-breaking research means we have cures for many diseases.