30 Useful Business Idioms Explained Simply

Hello everyone,

In the world of business, people frequently use idioms to convey thoughts in a more colorful and brief manner.

An idiom is a saying that signifies something other than the actual meanings of the words.

For instance, saying “it’s a piece of cake” doesn’t actually mean a dessert, but that something is super simple.

Understanding popular business idioms can assist you in grasping others’ intentions and communicating more efficiently in work environments.

Here are 30 useful business idioms explained in simple terms:

Back to the drawing board

Meaning: When an attempt fails, and you have to start over from the beginning.

Example: “The marketing campaign was a bust. It’s back to the drawing board for us.”

Ball is in your court

Meaning: It is up to you to make the next decision or step.

Example: “I’ve given you my proposal. The ball is in your court now.”

Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: You are making assumptions that lead you in the wrong direction.

Example: “If you think our competitor is struggling, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Their sales are up this quarter.”

Beat around the bush

Meaning: Avoiding the main topic by being indirect.

Example: “There’s no need to beat around the bush. What did my employee evaluation say?”

Burn the midnight oil

Meaning: To work late into the night, often after regular work hours are over.

Example: “The team has been burning the midnight oil to meet the project deadline.”

Costs an arm and a leg

Meaning: Something is extremely expensive.

Example: “Renovating the office costs an arm and a leg, but it will pay off in increased productivity.”

Cut corners

Meaning: To get something done quicker by omitting steps or details.

Example: “I don’t recommend cutting corners on safety just to finish faster.”

Drop the ball

Meaning: To miss an opportunity or make a mistake through negligence.

Example: “Our supplier dropped the ball by shipping the wrong inventory this month.”

Firing on all cylinders

Meaning: Operating at maximum efficiency.

Example: “After restructuring, the sales team is really firing on all cylinders.”

Get the ball rolling

Meaning: To get something started.

Example: “Let’s get the ball rolling on this project by assigning tasks today.”

Give someone the green light

Meaning: To permit someone to go ahead with a plan or make it happen.

Example: “The CEO gave the green light for the project after reviewing the budget.”

Go back to the drawing board

Meaning: To start over and rethink an approach when something isn’t working.

Example: “Our strategy failed to increase market share, so we had to go back to the drawing board.”

Hit the nail on the head

Meaning: To describe something accurately without any confusion.

Example: “The consultant really hit the nail on the head when diagnosing our supply chain issues.”

In the pipeline

Meaning: A project or process that has started but not completed.

Example: “We have some major software updates in the pipeline for next year.”

Jump on the bandwagon

Meaning: To join a popular trend or activity.

Example: “Many companies are jumping on the AI bandwagon and investing in automation.”

Keep someone in the loop

Meaning: To keep someone informed or updated on a situation.

Example: “Make sure you keep me in the loop on any delays with the product launch.”

Leave no stone unturned

Meaning: To inspect every possibility thoroughly before making a decision.

Example: “Our auditors have vowed to leave no stone unturned in their investigation.”

Let someone off the hook

Meaning: To no longer hold someone responsible for something they were supposed to do.

Example: “Since you took over their duties, I can let Julia off the hook for those reports.”

Make a long story short

Meaning: To give a summary of something instead of every detail.

Example: “To make a long story short, we ultimately decided to reject the offer.”

Miss the boat

Meaning: To miss an important opportunity by delaying too long.

Example: “If we don’t update our mobile app soon, we’ll miss the boat on that market.”

On the same page

Meaning: To agree with one another and have a unified perception.

Example: “Before we present to the client, we need to make sure our whole team is on the same page.”

Par for the course

Meaning: Something that is common or should be expected in a particular situation.

Example: “Occasional customer complaints are just par for the course in our industry.”

Put a sock in it

Meaning: A rude way to tell someone to stop talking.

Example: “Jennifer just put a sock in it and let me finish my presentation.”

Put one’s hat in the ring

Meaning: To show one’s willingness to be considered for a job or responsibility.

Example: “With the CEO retiring, several vice presidents have put their hats in the ring.”

Raise the bar

Meaning: To set higher standards or expectations than currently exist.

Example: “This quarter’s sales targets really raise the bar over last year’s goals.”

Scratch the surface

Meaning: To only deal with or describe a small portion leaving much more to be explored.

Example: “The report barely scratched the surface of our staffing needs for next year.”

See eye to eye

Meaning: To agree with someone or share their perspective.

Example: “I don’t quite see eye to eye with management’s growth strategy.”

Take a rain check

Meaning: Postpone an invitation until a later, more convenient time.

Example: “I can’t make the company picnic, but can I take a rain check for next time?”

Think outside the box

Meaning: To explore novel or unorthodox ideas and solutions.

Example: “We need to think outside the box and find creative ways to reduce expenses.”

Under the weather

Meaning: To feel sick or unwell, usually temporarily.

Example: “I was a bit under the weather yesterday, but I’m feeling better now.”

Learning these everyday business sayings will help you get what your coworkers and clients are saying when they use these fun phrases.

And using the right sayings yourself can make your words more exciting and easy to understand.

Just make sure to explain any sayings that people might not know so they don’t get confused.

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Check out these awesome phrases & Idioms books I recommend:

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary

IDIOMS and PHRASES Anglo,Synonyms and Antonyms Anglo,One Word Substitution

Oxford Dictionary of Idioms

3000 Idioms and Phrases+ 3000 Proverbs 

Idioms for Kids

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