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 S – W with picture examples.

Don’t forget to click on the links at the bottom for the rest.

business idioms and expressions beginning with S

Let’s kick this huge list off with common business idioms and expressions beginning with ‘S’.

  • safe bet – certain to happen/win/succeed, confidence can be placed in the outcome
    Getting an engineering degree is a safe bet, it’s a good profession.
  • screw up – do something bad or twist something into a smaller shape
    I have screwed up the offer and thrown it away, it was way too low.
  • seal of approval – proof something is acceptable
    The chief has given my project his seal of approval.
  • second nature – something that comes easily to you as you do it often
    I wouldn’t trust a word he says. Lying is second nature to him.
  • see eye to eye – fully agree with someone
    Me and my siblings see eye to eye about putting our great aunt into a home.
  • see something through – persevere, continue with something until it’s finished
    I stared the project so I’m going to see it through.
  • sell down the river – badly betray someone
    We’ve been sold down the river. The bank told us our money was safe, but it’s all gone.
  • separate the wheat from the chaff – separate the good from the bad
    My shed is full. I’m going to spend the afternoon separating the wheat from the chaff.
  • set the pace – determine the seed/rate
    Ethel sold 20,000 units this week, she’s set the pace for the rest of us.
  • set the record straight – give a truthful version of events
    Everyone is saying I’m a cheater. I need to set the record straight, we’ve separated.
  • settle a score – get revenge/punish someone
    The reigning champion ha a score to settle with the youngster.
  • sever ties – end a friendship/partnership/relationship and stop contact
    I don’t like the way he does business. I’ll be severing ties with him after this deal ends.
  • shape up or ship out – start improving/behaving or leave
    My husband’s drinking is out of control. I told him to shape up or ship out.
  • shed light – clarify, help answer questions
    Hopefully Max can shed some light on why there is money missing from my purse.
  • shoot someone/something down – reject
    The council shot down plans for a new entertainment complex.
  • show someone the ropes – teach someone how to do a particular job/task/activity
    I’ve spent three weeks showing her the ropes but she’s still useless.
  • side-tracked – cause someone to be distracted from what they’re doing
    Turn the TV off! I don’t want Jacob to get side-tracked, he needs to revise.
  • signed, sealed, and delivered – completed satisfactorily, a signed official/formal document
    The contract has been signed, sealed, and delivered. That’s five new clients in a week.
  • silent/sleeping partner – a person who provides money but is not involved in operating the business
    A well-known businessman wants to be a silent partner in my restaurant.
  • sing from the same hymn sheet – have the same opinions/understanding as others especially in public
    The gunners were singing from the same hymn sheet last night securing them a 4-0 victory.
  • sink or swim – fail or succeed
    I finally kicked my son out. His behaviour was terrible. It’s sink or swim now.
  • sky’s the limit – anything is possible, there is no limit
    Let’s jump on a plane and go somewhere, the sky’s the limit.
  • skyrocket – increase very rapidly/steeply
    If we leave the EU, prices will skyrocket.
  • slack off/be a slacker – lazy, do less work
    Leanne is such a slacker, she expects everyone else to do all the work.
  • slave driver – a person who makes other people work very hard
    I quit my job today, my boss is a slave driver.
  • slice of the pie – a portion of the profits
    Our boss is great. We all get a slice of the pie, five extra days holiday.
  • small fry – unimportant/insignificant people or things
    The managers will get a juicy bonus, the small fry will get nothing.
  • small print – text written in small font in the hope it won’t be noticed
    Make sure you read the small print before buying your holiday insurance.
  • small talk – casual/trivial conversation
    Can you make small talk with the clients until we’re ready to start the meeting?
  • stand one’s ground – face a situation bravely, don’t retreat
    Stand your ground, the bullies will soon get bored.
  • state of the art – the latest technology, new, modern
    I can’t wait to get my state-of-the-art kitchen fitted.
  • step up a gear – become more intense better
    Francis needs to step it up a gear in the second set or he’ll be knocked out.
  • step up to the plate – come forward and take responsibility especially in times of crisis
    Two employees have quit. I need everyone to step up to the plate to ensure orders are done.
  • sticky wicket – a difficult/delicate situation
    I found myself on a sticky wicket. I got to the till and realised I had forgotten my wallet.
  • swamped – inundated, overwhelmed
    I’ve been swamped for weeks at college. I can’t wait for a holiday.
business idioms and expressions in English - safe bet
business idiom - screw up
business idioms list - seal of approval
business idiom - second nature meaning
business idioms and expressions in English - see eye to eye
business idiom - see something through
business expression - sell down the river meaning
business idioms list - sell like hot cakes
common business idioms - separate the wheat from the chaff
business idioms and expressions in English - set the pace meaning
business idiom - set the record straight
business idioms list - settle a score meaning
business idiom - sever ties
common business idioms - shape up or ship out
business idiom - shed light meaning
business idioms and expressions in English - shoot someone down
business expression - show someone the door meaning
business idiom - show someone the ropes
business idiom - side-tracked
common business idioms - signed, sealed and delivered
business idioms list - silent/sleeping partner meaning
business idioms and expressions in English - sing from the same hymn sheet meaning
business idioms and expressions in English - sink or swim
business idiom - sky’s the limit
business idiom - skyrocket
business expression - slack off meaning
business idiom - slave driver
business english money idioms - slice of the pie
business expression - small fry meaning
business idioms and expressions in English - small print
business idioms and expressions in English - small talk
business expression - stand one’s ground
business sayings - state of the art
common business sayings - step up a gear
business expressions list - step up to the plate meaning
business idiom - sticky wicket
business sayings - swamped

Business idioms and expressions beginning with T

  • tackle something – deal with a task/problem/issue
    I’ll tackle the pile of paperwork on my desk after lunch.
  • take a leaf out of someone’s book – copy, follow someone’s example as it will be to your advantage
    You should take a leaf out of Reece’s book and study. He got 98% in the last exam.
  • take the bull by the horns – confront a problem head on, be brave and direct
    I’ve had enough of his bad attitude, I’ll take the bull by the horns and fire him.
  • talk shop – discuss work
    Our husbands are mechanics, so they’re always talking shop when they’re together.
  • talk someone into – persuade someone to do something
    We need to talk Alex into driving us to that rave in Bristol.
  • talk someone out of something – persuade someone not to do something
    I talked myself out of running the marathon, I’m just too lazy.
  • team player – a person who works well as a member of a team and puts personal goals aside
    Shaun isn’t a team player, he only cares about himself.
  • the eleventh hour – the latest possible moment
    Tina pulled out at the eleventh hour. Now there are only three of us going.
  • the straw that broke the camel’s back/the last straw – the final small thing that causes failure
    Callum arrived late again. That was the last straw, he was fired immediately.
  • there is no I in team – don’t work alone, work together to achieve a result
    There’s no I in team, remember that on the pitch today boys.
  • think outside the box – think of creative/original/imaginative/unusual ideas, forget about the rules
    I need to think outside the box for my next crime novel. I want to keep my fans interested.
  • throw a curveball – surprise someone with a problem/situation/issue etc. which causes difficulties
    She threw me a curveball and told me she was 4 months pregnant.
  • throw cold water on – discourage, reduce enthusiasm
    I hate my job; my boss is always throwing cold water on my ideas.
  • throw in at the deep end – make someone do something difficult without preparing them for it
    I’ve never baked, and I’ve got to make a wedding cake. I’m being thrown in at the deep end.
  • throw money at someone/something – spend a lot of money to try and improve the situation
    We need to stop throwing money at the project and look for a solution instead.
  • thumbs down – a sign of disapproval/rejection
    The manager gave the thumbs down to my new marketing idea.
  • thumbs up – a gesture of approval
    My mum gave me the thumbs up when she met my hunky boyfriend.
  • toe the line – follow the rules
    You’ve got to start toeing the line or you’ll get kicked out of school.
  • too close to call – you can’t predict the outcome, it will be by a small margin
    The election is too close to call, either of the 3 could win.
  • toot one’s own horn – boast about your own skills/achievements
    Lucas has every right to toot his own horn, he’s a self-made millionaire.
  • touch base – communicate with someone
    The camping trip was great, I got to touch base with some old friends.
  • train of thought – a series of thoughts/ideas
    Joe is a complicated guy, I never follow his train of thought.
  • tricks of the trade – clever techniques/methods known and used by professionals
    My uncle taught me all the tricks of the trade. He was a mechanic for over 40 years.
  • turn the tables – reverse a situation
    We were 3-0 down, now we’re 5-2 up. We turned the tables in the second half.
  • tweak something – slightly adjust/alter/fine-tune something to improve it
    I need to do a few tweaks to next week’s rota. Jimmy and Jade can’t work together.
  • twenty-four seven (24/7) – something is open/available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
    If you need me just call. I’m available 24/7 to help you.
  • twist someone’s arm – persuade someone to do something they are reluctant to do
    Please come out for a drink, I’ll keep twisting your arm until you do.
  • two-horse race – a competition where there are only two teams/candidates with a chance of winning
    The election is turning into a two-horse race.
  • two-way street  give and take in equal amounts You have to give respect if you want it in return, it’s a two-way street.
business idiom - tackle something
business expressions list - take a leaf out of someone’s book meaning
common business idioms - take the bull by the horns
business idiom - talk shop
business idioms and expressions in English - talk someone into
business idiom - talk someone out of
business idiom - team player
business idiom - the eleventh hour
Business idioms and expressions - the straw that broke the camel's back
business idioms and expressions in English - there is no I in team meaning
Business idioms and expressions - think outside the box
business idiom - throw a curveball
Business idioms and expressions - throw cold water on
business idiom - throw in at the deep end
Business idioms and expressions - throw money at
business idiom - thumbs up
Business idioms and expressions - toe the line
business expressions - too close to call
business expressions - toot one’s own horn
Business idioms and expressions - touch base
business expressions - train of thought
business expressions - tricks of the trade meaning
Business idioms and expressions - turn the tables
Business idioms and expressions - tweak something
business idiom - twenty four seven
business idiom - twist someone’s arm
business idiom - two way street
Business idioms and expressions - two-horse race

business idioms beginning with U

  • under the table – in secret as it’s usually illegal
    I gave the interviewer some money under the table. Hopefully I get the job.
  • up for grabs – available to win or buy
    There is a pub up for grabs in my village. It’s a bargain, I might buy it.
  • up in the air – unresolved/uncertain/not decided
    We should be going to Prague tomorrow, but Tanya is sick so it’s up in the air.
  • up to par – satisfactory, acceptable
    The main course was nice, but the dessert wasn’t up to par
  • up to speed – fully informed, up to date
    I missed 3 weeks of classes. It’s going to take me a while to get back up to speed.
  • up-and-coming – likely to become successful in the future
    The blues have signed some up-and-coming players for the new season.
  • uphill battle/struggle – a continuously challenging task
    Having three kids and four pets is an uphill battle. I’m constantly tired and skint.
business idiom - under the table meaning
common business idioms - up and coming
business idiom - up for grabs
business idiom - up in the air
Business idioms and expressions - up to par
business idiom - up to speed
Business idioms and expressions - uphill battle

Business expressions beginning with W

  • water under the bridge – incidents in the past are no longer important
    We didn’t speak for years, but it’s water under the bridge now.
  • wheel come/fall off – something suddenly/unexpectedly fails
    We were 3-0 up, then the wheel came off.
  • where there’s smoke there’s fire – there is usually some truth in a rumour
    There’s no way James embezzled thousands, but where there’s smoke…
  • white-collar – professionals or office workers
    All my family are white-collar workers.
  • whole different/new ballgame – a totally different situation from what you’re used to
    I used to ride horses, but playing polo is a whole new ballgame.
  • win-win (situation) – both outcomes are beneficial
    I’ll let you have some of my pizza if you give me some of your fries. It’s a win-win.
  • word of mouth – hear about something from people not through adverts
    Most of our business comes from word of mouth.
  • work one’s fingers to the bone – work very hard
    My dad worked his fingers to the bone then died a week after he retired.
  • work one’s socks off – work very hard
    Harley worked his socks off and bought his dream car.
  • writing on the wall – signs that something bad will happen in the future
    Can’t you see the writing on the wall? The company is going bankrupt.
Business idioms and expressions - water under the bridge meaning
business idiom - wheel come-fall off
Business idioms and expressions - where there’s smoke there's fire
business idiom - white-collar
Business idioms and expressions - whole different/new ballgame
business idiom - win win situation
Business idioms and expressions - word of mouth
business idiom - work one’s fingers to the bone
Business idioms and expressions - work one’s socks off
business idiom - writing on the wall

If you’ve enjoyed these business idioms and expressions S – W, click the links below to learn some more.