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 H – L with picture examples.
Don’t forget to click on the links at the bottom for the rest.
business idioms and expressions beginning with H
Let’s kick this huge list off with common business idioms and expressions beginning with ‘H’.
- hands are tied – you can’t do something because you don’t have the power/authority
The headmaster wants him expelled. There is nothing I can do; my hands are tied.
- have a good innings – had a long successful life/career
Albert had a good innings, he deserves his retirement.
- have a lot on one’s plate – have too much work/many things to deal with
We can’t go on holiday this year, we’ve got too much on our plates.
- have an ace up one’s sleeve – have a secret advantage
I’ll get the job. I have an ace up my sleeve; my dad is friends with the boss.
- have an axe to grind – have a complaint/dispute
The boss has called an emergency meeting, I think he has an axe to grind.
- have one’s back against the wall – you are in a difficult situation and have no other options
I’m in so much debt, my back is against the wall. The bailiffs are coming tomorrow.
- have one’s cake and eat it – enjoy two things that contradict each other
You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s uni or travelling, not both.
- have one’s fingers in lots of pies – be involved in many different things
She does yoga, Pilates, running and karate. That woman has her fingers in lots of pies.
- have one’s foot in the door – start working for a company in a low position in the hope of getting promoted
I’d love to get my foot in the door at Google.
- have one’s work cut out – a hard/difficult job/task
Our colleague is on holiday, so we have our work cut out this week.
- have the floor – the person speaking in a discussion debate
I’ve got a few more points to go through then you can have the floor
- have the upper hand – gain an advantage
My brother always has the upper hand when we fight. He is much bigger than me.
- headhunt – persuade a person from another company to work for you
I’m going to headhunt someone for the manager’s position. I need someone with experience
- heads will roll – someone will get in trouble and be severely punished for doing something bad
The case didn’t go to court as vital evidence was destroyed. Heads will roll.
- hear through the grapevine – hear unofficial rumours/gossip
I heard through the grapevine that three people were fired yesterday.
- hit a home run – do something that is very successful
Our latest product is selling like crazy. We’ve hit a home run.
- hit a snag – an unexpected problem/issue/difficulty
We’ve hit a snag. The car has broken down, I don’t think we’ll make it tonight.
- hit the big time – become rich/famous/successful
I’ve got a part in a Hollywood blockbuster, I’ve hit the big time.
- hit the ground running – start and continue doing something with enthusiasm
The team have hit the ground running. I predict at least 5 goals from them.
- hit the right note – do/say something that is perfectly suitable for the situation
Our adverts aren’t hitting the right note. We need to do some more research.
- hold all the aces – have all the power/advantages
If Kieron gets promoted, he’ll hold all the aces. He’ll be a nightmare to work for.
- hold the fort – take responsibility as the person who is usually in charge is absent
I`ve got to meet with the CEO at noon. Can you hold the fort for an hour?
- hold your horses – wait and be patient before doing something
Hold your horses. I need to read the contract in detail before I sign anything.
- homestretch – the final stage of a long activity
After tomorrow’s exam, we’re in the homestretch
- hotshot – an important/skilful/capable/successful person
He’s a hotshot stockbroker. I trust him with my money.
- household name – a person or object that is well known by the public
My aim is to make my products household names by 2020.
- hush money – a bribe to keep a secret
My mistress is pregnant. I must give her £300 a month hush money or she’ll tell my wife.
business expressions beginning with I
- icing on the cake – something additional that makes a good situation even better
Then fourth goal was the icing on the cake for the away side.
- in a class of one’s own – much better than someone/something similar, nothing else compares
My quadruple chocolate fudge cake is in a class of its own.
- in a different league – much better at doing something
Freddie is in a different league than the other boys. He’ll play in the Premiership one day.
- in a nutshell – in a few words, brief
Tell me the story in a nutshell, I have to go out.
- in for the high jump – likely to be punished
When I find out who slashed my tyres, they’ll be in for the high jump.
- in full swing – operating fully, the level of activity is at its highest
I love this time of year; the football season is in full swing.
- in hot water – in a lot of trouble
I’ll be in hot water with my parents when they find out I’ve been skipping school.
- in it for the long haul – continue with something until the end/for a long time
I’ve just got a job with a big company, I’m in it for the long haul.
- in someone’s corner – give someone your full support
He’s innocent, why am I the only one in his corner?
- in stock – goods are available
I hope the new Nintendo game I want is in stock.
- in the black – have money, not be in debt
This time next year I will have paid off all my debts and be in the black
- in the driver’s seat – be in control
Simon has left the project, I hope they put me in the driver’s seat.
- in the pipeline – being planned, about to start
Our band is gaining popularity, we have a new album and tour in the pipeline.
- in the red – in debt
My business is in the red. If I don’t start making money, it will go under.
- in the running – a contender in a competition
That song is amazing. It’s definitely in the running for Christmas number 1.
- in the same boat – in the same situation as another person
You should meet Jack. You’re both in the same boat, divorced with a kid.
- in the same league – on the same level of skill (or not)
Sally is quite good, but she’s not in the same league as Judy.
- it’s a jungle out there – life is hard, it’s difficult to survive
Stay safe on your travels. It’s a jungle out there.
business expressions beginning with J
- jockey for position – try to get into a better position against your competitors
All candidates are jockeying for position. They’re trying to get the most media coverage.
- jump in feet first – do something quickly without hesitating or panicking
Starting a new school is scary, jump in feet first and you’ll be fine.
- jump on the bandwagon – join a popular trend or activity
Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and playing Pokémon Go.
- jump ship – leave an organisation and move to another
Did the CEO really jump ship or was he pushed?
- jump the gun – do something before the appropriate time
I asked her to move in with me. I think I jumped the gun, we’ve only been dating for 2 months.
- jump through hoops – complete many difficult challenges in order to achieve something
My friend has been jumping through hoops to get us tickets to Beyoncé.
- jump to conclusions – decide before you have all the facts
Hayley is always jumping to conclusions. She gets herself into so much trouble.
business expressions beginning with K
- keep in the dark – unaware, uninformed
Why are they keeping me in the dark? I want to know how serious the accident was.
- keep one’s eye on the ball – stay focused
We ned to keep out eye on the ball, our final exams start in a month.
- keep one’s head above water – survive in difficult times, especially with money
The first part of the year was difficult, now we’re keeping our heads above water.
- keep one’s nose to the grindstone – continuously work hard
You’ve kept your nose to the grindstone all year. You deserve a juicy bonus.
- keep someone in the loop – inform someone of the latest news/plans/details etc.
As long as I’m kept in the loop, I don’t mind how you run the project.
- keep someone on their toes – be alert, focused, concentrate or ready for anything to happen
The CEO is coming on Tuesday, you all need to be on your toes.
- keep someone posted – regularly give someone the most recent news
Maria has gone into labour, we’ll keep you posted.
- keep the ball rolling – maintain the momentum/progress
Ernie founded the charity before he passed. It’s up to us to keep the ball rolling.
- kick into touch – stop something happening/succeeding
Our plans for a new home have been kicked into touch now I’m unemployed.
- kick something around – discuss ideas
The meeting went on forever. We were kicking around ideas but couldn’t agree on anything.
- know the score – be aware of what is going on even if you don’t like it
He knows the score. If he wants drugs, I want money first.
- knuckle down – stop fooling around and start working hard
I’m going to knuckle down this year. I don’t want to fail again
business expressions beginning with L
- lame duck – useless, ineffective
All my boyfriends turn out to be lame ducks.
- land on one’s feet – be lucky/successful especially in difficult times
After being rejected numerous times, Ollie has landed on his feet and works for Microsoft.
- last/final straw – the final annoyance that makes someone lose their temper
I found my husband on a dating site. That was the last straw, we’re over.
- lay of the land – the current situation
I’m going to figure out the lay of the land before I decide to invest.
- learn the ropes – learn the basic principles of a particular job/task/activity
I’ve been learning the ropes from my dad, he’s a good teacher.
- learning curve – the process of progressing, gaining experience and learning from mistakes
Don’t be too hard on the apprentice, she’s at the beginning of a big learning curve.
- leave no stone unturned – try every way possible to achieve something
We’ll leave no stone unturned in the hunt for the missing teenager.
- leave the door open – the possibility of something happening in the future
I don’t want to do the course yet; can you leave the door open for me?
- legwork – long boring tasks that have to be done as part of a job
Mia has done all the legwork. She’s gathered 2000 reports and put them on a spreadsheet.
- let the side down – disappoint your friends/family/colleagues
I want you all playing your best. If you let the side down, you’re out of the team.
- level playing field – equal/fair conditions for everyone involved
The favourites have had two players sent off, it’s now a level playing field.
- license to print money – something with high profits and little effort
Renting the 6 flats I own is a license to print money.
- line of work – the type of work a person does to earn money
My line of work is very dangerous, but the pay is great.
- lion’s share – the majority
Jay gave the lion’s share of his lottery win to charity.
- long shot – a guess/bet/suggestion with little chance of success
I’ve put £10 on Tottenham to win the league. It’s a long shot, but they’re my team.
- loophole – evade a law/rule/contract etc.
I’m looking for a loophole in the tax law, I pay way too much.
- lose ground – fall behind, fail to keep one’s position
The Lib Dems have lost ground, it’ll be interesting to see the results of the next election.
- low blow – an unfair attack
Don’t humiliate him in front of his new girlfriend, it’s a low blow.