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 A

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

  • a big fish in a small pond – someone who is important in a small area
    Joe was a big fish in a small pond, when he went to uni, that all changed.
  • a close call – a narrow escape from danger/disaster
    It was a close call, but we got to the gate a minute before it closed.
  • a drop in the ocean – A small amount compared to what is required
    My signature is only a drop in the ocean. The campaign needs 100,000.
  • A for effort – someone has tried hard even though they might not have succeeded
    I’ll give you an A for effort but cook the pasta a little more next time.
  • a 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.
  • a 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.
  • above average – better than normal
    The film wasn’t even above average, it was below average in my opinion.
  • above board – legal, honest
    I’ve got a new business opportunity. It’s all above board, would you like to know more?
  • across the board – including everything and everyone in a particular group
    New punctuality rules apply across the board. If your late, your wages will be docked.
  • add fuel to the fire/flames – do/say something to make a bad situation even worse
    The burglar added fuel to the flames by resisting arrest.
  • add insult to injury – something happens to make a bad situation worse
    I had to work bank holiday Monday. To add insult to injury, I didn’t get paid time and a half.
  • against all odds – something happens although it seemed very likely to fail
    Against all odds, he made a full recovery,
  • ahead of the game – gain/maintain an advantage over your competitors
    The Japanese are always ahead of the game when it comes to technology.
  • ahead of the pack – in front of/more successful than your competitors
    In tomorrow’s meeting, we’ll discuss some new ideas. We need to stay ahead of the pack.
  • all done and dusted – completely finished
    I’ll have the report all done and dusted and on your desk by the end of the day
  • all ears – ready and eager to listen
    I’ve got a proposition for you, when you’re all ears, I’ll begin.
  • all hands on deck – everyone is needed to help
    The order has to be finished by Monday so it’s all hands on deck to complete it.
  • another bite of the cherry – another chance/opportunity to do something
    You don’t often get another bite of the cherry. Don’t mess up this time.
  • appeal to someone’s better nature – ask for mercy/sympathy
    I spoke to your dad and appealed to his better nature. He’s agreed to let you go to the concert.
  • asleep at the wheel – not paying attention to one’s work/responsibilities
    We missed the deadline because you were asleep at the wheel.
  • at sea – confused about something
    We’re at sea about whether to stay in our house or buy a bigger one.
  • at sixes and sevens – confused/disordered
    The country is at sixes and sevens. No one knows what state it will be in next year.
  • at stake – at risk of being lost/stolen/damaged etc.
    More than 3,000 jobs are at stake if the airline goes into liquidation.
  • at the drop of a hat – do something without hesitation/immediately
    If Hannah becomes single, I’d ask her out at the drop of a hat.
  • at this stage in the game – the current point in a situation/process
    I can’t say anything at this stage in the game. All will be revealed in a few weeks.
Business idioms and expressions - a big fish in a small pond
business idioms - a close call
business expressions - a drop in the ocean
Business idioms and expressions - A for effort
business idioms - above average
business idiom - a safe bet
business idiom - a two-horse race
Business idioms and expressions - above board
business phrases - across the board
business sayings in English- add fuel to the fire/flames
business idioms - add insult to injury
business phrases - against all odds
business idioms - ahead of the game
business expressions in English - ahead of the pack
business sayings in English - all done and dusted
business expressions in English - all ears
business sayings - all hands on deck
Business idioms and expressions - another bite of the cherry
business expressions in English- asleep at the wheel
Business idioms and expressions list - asleep at the wheel
business idioms - at sea meaning
Business idioms and expressions - at sixes and sevens meaning
business sayings in English - at stake
Business idioms and expressions list - at the drop of a hat
business phrases list- at this stage in the game

Business idioms and expressions beginning with B

  • back on one’s feet – healthy after being unwell or have money after being in financial difficulties
    Libby has a job, she’ll be back on her feet in a few months.
  • back to basics – revert to simple ideas/activities
    We’re going back to basics this week; you all failed the advanced grammar test.
  • back to square one – start again from the beginning because of failure
    My fiancé and I split after 12 years together. It’s back to square one.
  • back to the drawing board – start again at the beginning after an attempt has failed
    We were gazumped on the house we wanted, looks like it’s back to the drawing board.
  • backbreaking – physically demanding
    We’ve done a lot of backbreaking work in the garden. We deserve a beer
  • bags of time – have lots of time
    Hurry up and get in the car. We haven’t got bags of time.
  • balance the books – ensure the credit/debit figures are correct
    I balance the books for a top beauty company.
  • ball in one`s court – someone else has to make the decision or deal with the problem/responsibility
    I paid for his rehab and got him a job, the ball is in his court now.
  • ballpark figure – an approximate figure
    The ballpark figure is 500 guests, it could be a lot more.
  • bang for one’s/the buck – good value for money
    Let’s go to the curry house on Vincent Street. We’ll get more bang for our buck there.
  • bank on someone/something – rely on someone/something happening
    I’ve just lost my job; I’m banking on my family to help me.
  • bark up the wrong tree – pursue the wrong thing
    I think you’re barking up the wrong tree, James is definitely gay.
  • bat for someone – support/help/defend someone
    Do you think you could bat for me and speak to your boss? I really need this job.
  • beat someone at their own game – use a similar strategy to your competitors/enemies
    I’m offering weekend discounts at my salon to beat the competition at their own game.
  • behind the scenes – things that happen out of the view of the public
    Watch the news at 7, we’ll be going behind the scenes at an abattoir in Devon.
  • bend over backwards – make a great effort to help someone
    I’ve always bent over backwards for my neighbours, but when I need a favour, they say no.
  • between a rock and hard place – in a predicament, faced with two unpleasant alternatives
    Nigel is between a rock and a hard place. It’s divorce or stay together and be miserable.
  • big cheese – a very important person
    The big cheese is coming tomorrow. please make sure you arrive on time.
  • big picture – the whole perspective of an issue/situation
    Look at the big picture. If you keep giving him chocolate, you’ll have huge vet bills down the line.
  • bigwig – an important person
    Make sure you’re polite to that guy in the pink shirt, he’s a government bigwig.
  • black and white – something is clear, straightforward
    The rules are black and white. If you cheat, you will be removed from the school.
  • black market – buying and selling illegal goods
    A girl in my uni sold her kidney on the black market to pay for her course.
  • blank cheque – a signed cheque where the amount of money can be inserted
    My parents gave me a blank cheque so I can buy furniture for my new flat.
  • blindside – be surprised in a negative way
    We were all blindsided by his decision to quit the panel.
  • blow by blow account – a detailed description of an event
    Sit down, I want a blow by blow account of your date last night.
  • blow one’s own trumpet – boast about one’s own skills/achievements
    Grace is always blowing her own trumpet. She’s not even good at acting.
  • blow someone away/be blown away – amaze someone
    I watched a really good film about aliens, the special effects blew me away.
  • bottom falls out – something suddenly ends/stop being successful
    You need to close the deal today; the chief won’t be happy if the bottom falls out.
  • bottom line – the most important factor
    The bottom line is that she wants kids, and I don’t. I can’t see a future for us.
  • brainstorm – a group discussion to think of ideas
    We’re having a meeting tomorrow to brainstorm ideas for the business.
  • break even – the minimum number of sales needed to cover costs
    The business is running at a loss; I’m not even breaking even.
  • breathe down someone’s neck – monitor someone closely in an irritating way
    My mum caught me smoking so she’s been breathing down my neck ever since.
  • bring something to the table – provide something useful/beneficial
    We’ll arrange a meeting where everyone can bring their ideas to the table.
  • bring the curtain down on – end something
    She brought the curtain down on her 40-year career in showbusiness.
  • broke/flat broke – have no money
    I can’t come on holiday this year. I’m flat broke.
  • build bridges – improve relationships/reconcile hostile people/groups
    I need to build bridges with my neighbours, I hate falling out with people.
  • burn bridges – behave badly so there is no chance to return to that situation in the future
    I shouted and swore at the boss. He won’t have me back; I’ve burnt my bridges.
  • burn the midnight oil – work late into the night
    I’ve burnt the midnight oil a lot recently, I’ll be glad when my exams are over.
  • business as usual – things continue as normal even in difficult circumstances
    The office was broken into. Let’s clean up what we can and it’s business as usual.
  • buy someone off – pay someone to do something for you, bribe
    The gangster bought off the jury so he wouldn’t be charged with money laundering.
  • buyer’s market – a market where there are more sellers than buyers and prices are low
    Let’s buy a car, prices are at rock bottom. It’s a buyer’s market at the moment.
  • by the book – strictly follow the rules and regulations
    Jax does everything by the book, he’s so boring.
Business idioms and expressions - back on one’s feet
business idioms in English - back to basics
business idiom list - back to square one meaning
business idiom - back to the drawing board
business idiom - backbreaking
business idiom - bags of time
Business idioms and expressions - balance the books
business idiom - ball in one`s court
business idiom - ballpark figure
business idiom - bang for one’s buck
business idioms in English - bank on
business idiom - bark up the wrong tree
Business idioms and expressions - bat for someone
business idiom - beat someone at their own game
Business idioms and expressions - behind the scenes
business idioms in English - bend over backwards
business idiom - between a rock and hard place
business idiom list - big cheese
business idiom - big picture
big expressions list - bigwig meaning
business idioms and expressions - black and white
business idiom - black market
business idiom - blank cheque
business idiom - blindside
business idiom - blow by blow account
business idiom - blow one’s own trumpet
business idiom - blow someone away
business idiom - bottom falls out
business idiom list - bottom line
business idiom - brainstorm
business idioms in English - break even
business idiom list - bottom line
business idiom - breathe down someone’s neck meaning
business idiom - bring something to the table
business idiom - bring the curtain down on meaning
business idiom - broke/flat broke
business idiom - build bridges meaning
business idiom - burn bridges
business idiom - burn the midnight oil meaning
corporate idioms/business idiom - business as usual
business idiom - buy someone off
business idiom - buyer’s market
business idiom in English - by the book meaning

business expressions beginning with C

  • calculated risk – a risk that is worth taking as the result would be great
    It’s a calculated risk partnering with Richards and Co., but the profits would be immense.
  • call it a day – stop working on a job/task/relationship because you’re tired or it’s not working
    Let’s work for another 15 minutes then we’ll call it a day.
  • call the shots – be in charge, make the decisions
    Luke is in charge of the project. He’ll be calling the shots.
  • can’t see the wood for the trees – can’t see the whole situation as you are too preoccupied with minor details
    I hate the people who run this country, they can’t see the wood for the trees.
  • carve out a niche – develop expertise in a particular area
    We need to carve out a niche for our business if we want to succeed.
  • cash cow – something that generates income
    Donald’s parents are rich! He has a constant cash cow.
  • cash in on – take advantage of/capitalise on
    Every magazine in the country will be cashing in on the upcoming royal wedding.
  • cash in one’s chips – quit or exchange your winnings for money
    The business isn’t making money, we should cash in our chips in and move on.
  • catch off guard – something/someone surprises you as you weren’t expecting it
    I’ll tell the boss about my holiday at the end of the day. I want to catch him off guard.
  • chair a meeting – be in charge of a meeting
    My boss has asked me to chair our annual pensions meeting.
  • change of pace – different from the normal
    I’m moving to Canada, it’ll be a complete change of pace for me.
  • class act – a person/object that is impressive/outstanding/high quality
    The new manager is a class act, we’ve seen vast improvements since he arrived.
  • climb the corporate ladder – the hierarchy of power in a big company
    I work for a big company. Hopefully, I can climb the corporate ladder and earn mega bucks.
  • clinch a deal – succeed in getting a deal
    If we clinch this deal, we’ll need to employ lots more staff.
  • come out swinging – go immediately of the offensive
    The young boxer came out swinging and knocked out his opponent in 30 seconds.
  • come out/up smelling of roses – still have a good reputation despite being involved in something negative
    It was Connor’s idea to rob the safe, but he still comes out smelling of roses.
  • come up short – insufficient, lacking what you need, unsuccessful
    I keep coming up short on auditions, maybe I should quit singing.
  • cook the books – illegally manipulate official financial records
    I think someone has been cooking the books, the business looks much better on paper.
  • cream rises to the top – the best person/idea will always be recognised in the end
    Tucker cheated and won the race. I’ll win next time, cream always rises to the top.
  • cross the finish line – finish a job/task
    After 3 years working on a high-profile case, I’ve finally crossed the finish line.
  • cut corners – take shortcuts to save time/money/effort
    If we cut a few corners, we could finish the project by the weekend.
  • cut it fine – a very slight margin
    If we leave at 6, we’ll be cutting it fine. We should leave earlier.
  • cut one’s losses – withdraw from a losing situation
    Gary and I have cut our losses, we’re getting divorced and selling the house.
  • cut to the chase – get to the point
    She cut to the chase and asked me to lend her £1,000.
  • cut-throat – ruthless/relentless people or companies
    The fashion industry is cut-throat.
  • cutting-edge – the most modern/advanced
    Cutting-edge technology means we can now go into space.
business idiom - calculated risk
business idiom - call it a day
business expression - call the shots meaning
business idiom - can’t see the wood for the trees
business expression - carve out a niche
business idiom - cash cow
business idiom - cash in on
business idiom - cash in one’s chips
business idiom - catch off guard
business idiom - chair a meeting
business idiom - change of pace
business idiom - class act
business idiom - climb the corporate ladder
business idiom - clinch a deal
business idiom - come out swinging
business expression - come out/up smellin
business idiom - come up short
business english money idioms - cook the books
business idiom - cream rises to the top
business idiom - cross the finish line
business idiom - cut corners
business idiom - cut it fine
business idiom - cut one’s losses
corporate idioms/business idioms in English - cut throat meaning
business idiom - cut to the chase meaning
business idiom list - cutting edge