Business Idioms


People use many idioms in English on a daily basis. It’s really useful to learn business idioms in order to understand what is going on during a meeting or a discussion.

Here are just some of them:

to be on the same wavelength

When two people are on the same wavelength, they can understand and agree with each other easily.

I found that we were on the same wavelength about the important issues. 

You know, I can’t talk about expenses with her – we’re simply not on the same wavelength.

to talk shop

This expression means to talk about business or work matters at a social event, where such conversation is out of place.

All right, people, we’re not here to talk shop. Let’s enjoy the party. 

John and Alice stood by the swimming pool, talking shop

in the red

This expression means in debt. It originated from the practise of using red ink to show debt or losses on financial balance sheets.

The government has been operating in the red for five consecutive years. 

If we have any more car repairs, we’re going to be in the red this month. 

in the black

This is the opposite of the previous business idiom. Accountants used black ink to write profit, so this expression means a financially profitable condition or a situation when a business earns more money than it spends.

Some states have legalized gambling as a way to put their finances in the black

to give the green light

This expression is connected with a green traffic signal. It means “to give permission to go ahead” with a project.

They’ve just been given the green light to build two new hotels in the countryside. 

 She’s waiting for her physician to give her the green light to join the gym.

to have the floor

This business idiom means that a person has a right to speak at a meeting or a conference.

The last time you had the floor, you talked for an hour.

Silence, please , the prime minister has the floor

to make a cold call

This idiom is often used in sales. It means a visit or telephone call to a prospective customer without an appointment or a previous introduction.

Her first job was to make cold calls

We were cold-called by a company offering savings on our phone bill. 

sell ice to Eskimos

One more sales idiom which means to persuade people to go against their best interests or to accept something unnecessary.

He’s such a smooth talker, he could sell ice to Eskimos.

on hand

This idiom means that something or somebody is close to a person, ready to help or be used when necessary.

Extra supplies will be on hand, should they be needed.

to put on hold

This expression originates from telephoning. It means to stop all activity or communication with someone or to postpone a project.

They put the project on hold until they get enough money to finish it.

Sorry, but we must put your plan on hold

black market

This expression means illegal operations. Interestingly, it derives from the illicit trade in stolen graphite in England and across the English channel to France and Flanders, during the reign of Elizabeth I (1533-1603).

There’s a thriving black market in vodka and cigarettes. 

Rhino horns can fetch up to £4,000 on the black market

a golden parachute

If a top manager in a company has got a golden parachute, the company has signed a contract to provide them with a large sum of money if they lose their job.

He insisted on a substantial golden parachute as part of the package before taking up the post.