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 M – R with picture examples.
Don’t forget to click on the links at the bottom for the rest.
business idioms and expressions beginning with M
Let’s kick this huge list off with common business idioms and expressions beginning with ‘M’.
- make a killing
meaning – make lots of money
example – I converted an old barn into lots of flats, I made a killing.
- make hay while the sun shines
meaning – make the most of an opportunity while you have the chance
example – I’ll make hay while the sun shines and listen to all my favourite cheesy songs. My husband won’t be back until the evening.
- make one’s bed and lie in it
meaning – face the consequences of one’s actions
example – I told you not to use those cheap plumbers, you made your bed.
- man/woman of the world
meaning – a sophisticated/wise person with lots of life experience
example – Kira is a woman of the world, she doesn’t need your help.
- mean business
meaning – very serious and determined about something
example – I’ve just bought a new suit and briefcase to show everyone I mean business.
- meet halfway
meaning – compromise, often in an argument
example – I’ll meet you halfway. If you agree to pay for the broken window, I won’t involve the police.
- meet one’s match
meaning – your opponent is as good as you
example – The new guy Liam is a real joker. Alex has finally met his match.
- miss the boat
meaning – miss an opportunity
example – Ask her out now she’s newly single, you don’t want to miss the boat again.
- mix business with pleasure
meaning – do something that brings together working life with personal life
example – I’m meeting my client at the golf house. I can mix business with pleasure.
- money spinner
meaning – a business/project/idea that makes a lot of money
example – Nick has thought of a great money-spinning idea.
- monkey business
meaning – mischievous behaviour
example – I’m away on business next week. Make sure there is no monkey business whilst I’m gone.
- mountain to climb
meaning – facing a very difficult task/challenge
example – The new president is doing a great job, but he still has a mountain to climb.
- move heaven and earth
meaning – work very hard to achieve something
example – Lawrence is a good chap. He’ll move heaven and earth to finish the project on time.
- move in the same circles
meaning – associate/socialise with similar people/organisations
example – I know Janine. We move in the same circles, she’s a lawyer too.
meaning – be able to achieve very difficult things
example – I believe our world cup squad can move mountains this year.
- move the goalposts
meaning – change the rules/parameters to make a situation more difficult
example – I met the conditions, but they refused my proposal. They can’t keep moving the goalposts.
- mover and shaker
meaning – a powerful person in a particular area/field/activity
example – I made friends with some movers and shakers of the music industry.
meaning – do multiple tasks/jobs at the same time
example – My husband can’t multitask. He burnt the toast and sent the boy to nursery in a frock.
business idioms and expressions beginning with N
- name of the game
meaning – essential/important aspects for success
example – I love the Hunger games; the name of the game is survival.
- nine to five
meaning – a routine office job
example – I love having a routine and working nine to five.
meaning – the most important/fundamental factors
example – We started the class with a song, but we soon got down to the nitty-gritty.
- no holds barred
meaning – no rules/restrictions
example – I went to a no holds barred wrestling match. It was brutal, one guy got his ear bitten off.
- no strings attached
meaning – an offer that has no limitations/conditions/restrictions
example – I found a job working from home. It’s £500 a week, no strings attached.
- no sweat
meaning – easy, require little effort
example – Calum said he can bench press 80 kg no sweat. I think he’s lying.
meaning – something that requires little thought/mental effort
example – My decision to fire that idiot was a no-brainer.
- not by a long shot
meaning – not at all
example – I haven’t finished decorating my house yet. Not by a long shot.
- no-win situation
meaning – a situation where there is no chance of success
example – I’m in a no-win situation. Leave my job and have no money or stay and be unhappy.
- number cruncher
meaning – perform calculations, do maths
example – I’m a number cruncher for a top law firm. I’ve always loved maths.
business idioms beginning with O
- off base
meaning – incorrect, mistaken
example – You seem a little off base today class, perhaps because we’re nearing the end of term.
- off the top of one’s head
meaning – recall something from memory
example – I’ve got a new number, I can’t remember it off the top of my head.
- old hand
meaning – an experienced/skilled person
example – I’m an old hand at fixing cars. I’ve been doing it for 40 years.
- on a roll
meaning – enjoy a prolonged spell of success/luck
example – I’ve signed up four new clients and it’s not even 10 am, I’m on a roll.
- on a shoestring
meaning – on a tight budget, for little money
example – I can’t come to the cinema tonight, I’m on a shoestring at the moment.
- on hand
meaning – available to be used if needed
example – We have a team of 50 lawyers on hand 24/7 to help with all your legal needs.
- on target
meaning – accurate, likely to achieve what you’ve planned
example – We’re still on target to meet the deadline. Keep up the good work.
- on the back burner
meaning – temporarily put aside, low priority
example – Our holiday plans have been put on the back burner. We need to fix our leaking roof first.
- on the ball
meaning – alert, focused, efficient
example – You haven’t been on the ball recently. Are you having problems at home?
- on the ropes
meaning – close to defeat/collapse
example – The old pro is on the ropes. It looks like the young boxer will beat him.
- on the same page
meaning – all parties agree or have the same amount of knowledge
example – I’ll read out the instructions before we start. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.
- on the same wavelength
meaning – think/behave in the same way as another person
example – We’re not on the same wavelength anymore, I think we should split up.
- on the side-lines
meaning – not actively participating
example – Thomas has hurt his knee, so he’ll be on the side-lines today.
- on top of something
meaning – have something under complete control
example – My secretary is on holiday, so I need to keep on top of my work.
meaning – persuade someone to support/agree with you
example – Once the council are onside, we can go ahead with the house extension
- out in the open
meaning – in view of the public or public knowledge
example – My town is a disgrace, young kids are doing drugs out in the open.
- out of one’s depth
meaning – not have enough knowledge
example – Wendy has started a job at a top law firm. I think she’s out of her depth.
- out of the loop
meaning – not part of the group that is told information
example – She’s out of the loop, she hasn’t had the internet for over a week.
- out of the running
meaning – not a contender in a competition
example – If this scandal breaks, Lawler will be out of the running to become Chancellor.
business idioms beginning with P
- par for the course
meaning – what is normal/typical/expected
example – Dropping out of college is a par for the course these days.
- pass the buck
meaning – shift the responsibility or blame to another person
example – The politicians are passing the buck, no one wants to take responsibility for the recession.
- pat on the back
meaning – praise for doing something good
example – Well done class, you all passed the test. Give yourselves a pat on the back.
- pedal to the metal
meaning – do something very quickly or drive fast
example – We need to put the pedal to the metal if we want to get this order out on time.
- pen pusher
meaning – an office job involving paperwork
example – I’m fed up of pen pushing, I need a fun job.
- pick someone’s brains
meaning – ask someone for information, advice etc.
example – We need to pick your brains about travelling Europe. Are you free later?
- pick up steam
meaning – start working faster/more efficiently
example – The business has picked up steam pretty quickly. We’ll soon be able to expand at this rate.
- pie in the sky
meaning – a good but unrealistic idea
example – The chairman thinks we can raise the money. I think it’s pie in the sky.
- pipe dream
meaning – a fantasy plan that is unlikely to happen
example – A few years ago, performing a head transplant was a pipe dream, now it’s reality.
- pitch an idea
meaning – offer ideas to be discussed
example – I pitched a few holiday ideas to the missus, but she didn’t like any of them.
- plain sailing
meaning – smooth and easy
example – Our relationship hasn’t been plain sailing, but we love each other.
- play ball
meaning – cooperate
example – My ex isn’t playing ball. I’m going to have to involve my lawyer.
- play hardball
meaning – be ruthless and do anything necessary to get what you want
example – Let’s play hardball with the suspect. We need to find out where he dumped the body.
- play it by ear
meaning – don’t follow a plan, deal with things as they happen
example – I’m not sure who should run with the project, we’ll just play it by ear.
- poker face
meaning – an expressionless face to hide your true emotions
example – Make sure you use your poker face, we don’t want the bank to know we’re going bankrupt.
- pull a rabbit out of the hat
meaning – suddenly do something clever
example – England will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they want to win the FIFA World Cup this year.
- pull one’s weight
meaning – do one’s fair share of the work
example – If Damien doesn’t start pulling his weight, I’ll evict him.
- pull the plug
meaning – stop something happening/continuing
example – My landlord pulled the plug on my poker nights. The neighbours started complaining.
- put on the map
meaning – a person/company/brand/country etc. becomes well-know/famous
example – A food critic gave my restaurant rave reviews, he’s put me on the map.
- put one’s cards on the table
meaning – be honest and open about one’s feelings/ideas/intentions
example – He put his cards on the table and told me he didn’t love me anymore.
- put something on hold
meaning – pause, postpone something until a later date
example – We’ve put the project on hold until we get more funding.
- put the brakes on
meaning – slow down/stop a vehicle/an idea/progress/an activity
example – We need to put the brakes on our spending if we want a bigger house.
business idioms beginning with R
- raise the bar
meaning – increase the quality/standard/expectations
example – The teacher said I raised the bar, it was the best poem she has ever read.
- read between the lines
meaning – find real feelings/intentions not what is said/written
example – If you read between the lines, you’ll see that things haven’t been great between them for ages.
- red tape
meaning – official rules and proceedings that take time
example – I was going to buy an old church to renovate, but there was too much red tape.
- reinvent the wheel
meaning – waste time doing something that has already been done well
example – I don’t want you to reinvent the wheel, just come up with some new ideas.
- riding high
meaning – successful/popular/confident
example – Katy Perry is still riding high in the charts.
- right off the bat
meaning – immediately, from the beginning
example – I knew right off the bat it was a bad idea.
- right-hand man
meaning – the most valuable assistant/helper
example – I’m away for two weeks, contact my right-hand man Colin if you have any problems.
- rock the boat
meaning – disturb the peace/balance
example – If Lara becomes the manager and starts bossing people around, it’ll rock the boat.
- roll up one’s sleeves
meaning – prepare to work/fight/do something difficult
example – The bystander rolled up his sleeves and grabbed the thug around the neck.
- roll with the punches
meaning – cope with/adapt to difficulties
example – I’m just rolling with the punches until I get another job.
- round the clock
meaning – throughout the day and night, continuously
example – I’ve been studying round the clock for my exams.
- run at a loss
meaning – not making a profit
example – I can’t run at a loss any longer, I think it’s time to throw in the towel.
- run with
meaning – be in charge of something and do it independently
example – Do you think I can trust Ryan to run with the case while I’m away?
If you’ve enjoyed these business idioms and expressions M – R, click the links below to learn some more.