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A CONCISE DICTIONARY

OF CURRENT AMERICAN

BUSINESS IDIOMS
















М.Э. Данилова




A CONCISE DICTIONARY

OF CURRENT AMERICAN

BUSINESS IDIOMS


























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A

  1. (An) “A” player – a top performer, a superior employee

Note: Some corporations rank their employees with letters, just like the ones used in U.S. school system: A, B, C. the top 10 % -20 % are “A” players, the next 70 % - 80 % are “B” players. The “C” players are typically in the bottom 10 % and are usually not around for long.

  1. according to the rumor mill – according to gossip

  2. all in a day’s work – this is just part of the job; this is nothing unusual

  3. an arm and a leg – a lot of money

  4. around the clock – non-stop; 24 hours a day

  5. as sick as a dog – very sick

  6. asleep at the wheel – not performing well; neglecting responsibilities; not paying attention to what’s going on

Synonyms: asleep at the switch; out to lunch

  1. at a premium – at a high price; at a relatively high price

  2. at no extra charge – for free; for no additional money

  3. at one’s expense – at a cost to

Note: there is also the related expression “at one’s own expense”, meaning to pay the cost oneself

  1. at the end of the day – in summary; when we look back on this after we’ve finished

  2. at the top of one’s game – to be performing at the top of one’s abilities; to be performing very well

B

  1. back and forth on an issue – repeatedly changing one’s mind about something; having trouble settling on an opinion or decision

  2. back-of-the-envelope calculations – quick calculations; estimates using approximate numbers, instead of exact numbers

Note: This expression refers to the quick calculations one would do informally, as on the back of an envelop

  1. bat around some ideas - to discuss ideas; to discuss options

  2. beef up – to improve; to add to

  3. bells and whistles – extra product features, usually using the latest technologies; product features which are attractive, but not essential for the product to function

  4. belt – tightening – reduction of expenses

  5. bent out of shape – to be or to get very angry about something

  6. best of both worlds, the – a situation or product that offers two very different advantages at the same time

  7. between a rock and a hard place – in a very difficult position; facing two choices which are equally unacceptable or difficult

  8. between jobs – out of work; unemployed

Note: Saying one is “between jobs” sounds better than saying one is “unemployed”

  1. beyond the call of duty – more than is expected or required

Note: the variation: above and beyond the call of duty

  1. big picture, the – a summary; an overview; the most important points

  2. big win – a huge success; a successful product

  3. bigwig – very important person, person in charge

Synonyms: head honcho; big cheese; top dog; VIP (very important person)

Origin: This term comes from “big wig” – the large wigs that English men wore in the 17th and 18th centuries. Men of great importance wore the biggest wigs.

  1. bite the bullet – to make a difficult or painful decision; to take a difficult step

  2. bitter pill to swallow – bad news; something unpleasant to accept

  3. blockbuster – a big success; a huge hit

  4. blow things out of proportion – to exaggerate; to make more of something than one should

  5. blows my mind - it bothers me; it really surprises me; it amazes me

  6. bottom line – 1) profits; financial results 2) the final result; the main point

Note: In accounting, the bottom line (the last line) of the income statement shows net income (the profit after deducting all expenses). This is one of the most important numbers for a company

  1. brainstorm – to think up new ideas; to generate new ideas in a group

  2. break even – to make neither a profit or a loss; the point at which revenues equal costs

  3. break one’s budget – to cost much more than one wants to pay; to cost more than one can afford

  4. break the news – to make something known (often something unpleasant)

  5. bring a product to market – to introduce or launch a new product

  6. brown noser – somebody who’s always trying to win favor with those in authority, like bosses or teachers

  7. brownie points – credit for doing a good deed or for giving someone a compliment (usually a boss or teacher)

Origin: The junior branch of the Girl Scouts is called the Brownies. Brownies earn credit to then earn a badge by doing good deeds and tasks. When applied to adults, the meaning is sarcastic

  1. build from the ground up – to develop a company, a business, or a department from its beginnings; to build a successful operation from scratch

  2. burn one’s bridges – to do something which makes it impossible to go back; to damage a relationship to such an extent that one can never go back to that person again

Origin: This expression comes from the military. Soldiers dating back to the days of the Roman Empire used to burn the bridges behind them. This meant the Roman troops couldn’t retreat; they had to keep moving forward. It also made it more difficult for the enemy to follow them

  1. burn the midnight oil – to stay up late working or studying

  2. burned out – to be extremely tired; to lose effectiveness because of doing a job for too long

  3. butter up – to say nice things to somebody, hoping that they do something nice for you in the future, to compliment too much

  4. buy out – to purchase an entire business or someone’s share of the business


C

  1. call in sick – to phone into the office and say you’re sick

  2. call it quits – to give up; to quit; to stop; to admit defeat

  3. can do attitude – a positive way of looking at things; an optimistic perspective; a positive attitude

  4. can’t afford to – don’t have time for; don’t want to

  5. carve out a niche – to start a specialty business

  6. cash cow – a product, service, or business division that generates a lot of cash for the company, without requiring much investment

  7. cash in on – to make money on; to benefit financially from

  8. child’s play – an easy task

  9. Chill out! – Relax! Don’t worry!

  10. circle back to – to return to

  11. clean house – to fire a lot of employees

  12. climb the corporate ladder – advance in one’s carrier; the process of getting promoted and making it to senior management

  13. come up with a winner – to think up a very good idea

  14. come with the territory – to be part of the job

  15. compare apples to oranges – to compare two unlike things; to make an invalid comparison

Note: You will also see the related expression “compare apples to apples” which means to compare two things of the same type. This means that you are making a valid comparison, as opposed to when you’re comparing apples to oranges

  1. count me in – I will participate

  2. cover a lot of ground – to discuss many topics; to have a productive decision

  3. cover oneself – to try to avoid being blamed for something; to protect oneself from blame

Note: You may hear the more vulgar form of this expression: cover your ass, or the shortened version “CYA”. Since “ass” is a vulgar word, some people use more polite variations of this expression, such as “cover your behind” and “cover your butt”

  1. crash course, a, - short and intensive instruction

  2. crunch the numbers – to perform financial calculations

Note: You will also see the noun form of this expression, “number cruncher”, used to describe somebody who makes a lot of financial calculations as part of his or her job

  1. crunch time – a short period when there’s high pressure to achieve a result

  2. cut back on – to reduce

  3. cut it a little close – to try to do too much before a deadline; to not leave enough time to get a task done

  4. cut someone some slack – to be forgiving; to not judge someone too harshly

  5. cut to the chase – to get to the point; to tell the most important part of the story

Origin: In action films, the “chase”, refers to most exciting part, when the drama is at a high point. Some people may want the movie to get to this exciting part (in other words, cut to it) as soon as possible

  1. cutting – edge – very modern; using the latest technologies

D

  1. deliver – to meet expectations or requirements of a task, project, or job

  2. different animal – something entirely different

  3. do a 180 – to turn around; to change position completely; to improve a lot

  4. do whatever it takes – to do anything and everything necessary to accomplish a task or reach a goal

  5. dog-eat-dog world – a cruel and aggressive world in which people just look out for themselves

  6. don’t waste your breath- don’t bother; don’t bother trying to defend yourself; I don’t want to hear your excuses

  7. dot your i’s and cross you t’s – to be very careful; to pay attention to details

  8. down the road – in the future

  9. draw a blank – to be unable to remember

  10. Dream on! – That’s what you’d like, but it’s not realistic

  11. dream up – to think up something creative or unusual; to come up with an original idea; to invent

  12. drive a hard bargain – to be tough in negotiating an agreement; to negotiate something in one’s favor

  13. drop the ball – to make a mistake; to fail; to do something poorly

  14. drum up business – to create business; to find new customers

  15. dump someone – to end a romantic relationship

E

  1. earn one’s keep – to deserve what one is paid; to deserve to be in the position one is in; to contribute one’s share

  2. eating one’s lunch – taking away one’s business

  3. educated guess – a guess based on experience; a piece of information based on prior knowledge, not hard facts or data

  4. 80/20 rule, the – the principle that 80 percent of results are achieved through just 20 percent of activities

  5. every time I turn around – frequently; too often

F

  1. face the music – to admit that there’s a problem; to deal with an unpleasant situation realistically

  2. fall guy – the person who gets blamed for a mistake, sometimes unfairly

  3. far cry from , a – different than; not at all like; much less than

  4. fast followers – a company that doesn’t come up with new ideas or concepts first, but rather quickly copies those of other companies

  5. fast-forward, the, - a way of operating a tape recorder or video so that the tape is wound forward fast without being played

  6. fast track a project – to make a project a high priority; to speed up the time frame of a project

  7. fine – tune – to make small adjustments to something to increase the effectiveness or to make something work better

  8. first thing in the morning – early in the morning

  9. flesh out something – to elaborate on something; to add more detail to a plan; to think in more detail about something

  10. for a song – cheaply; inexpensively

  11. for starters – as a first step; to begin with

  12. for the record (also just for the record) – let me make my opinion clear

G

  1. game plan – an action plan; a plan how a project will proceed

  2. generate a lot of buzz – to cause many people to start talking about a product or service, usually in a positive way that increases sales

Note: “Buzz” is a popular word for “attention”

  1. get ahead – to get promoted; to advance in one’s career

  2. get buy – in(from) – to get agreement or approval from

  3. get down to business – to start work; to begin discussing the important issues

  4. get nailed – to get in trouble; to get caught doing something

  5. get off track – to get off the subject; to lose focus; to digress

  6. get one’s foot in the door – to get into an organization; to take a position with an organization that could lead to a bigger opportunity in the future

  7. get right on something – to take care of something immediately

  8. get something off the ground – to get started on something, often a project

  9. get something out of one’s system – to no longer feel the need to do something; to experience something to one’s satisfaction

  10. get the ball rolling – to get started

  11. get the job done – to do the job successfully; to accomplish the task

  12. get to the bottom of something – to figure out what’s going on; to find out what’s causing a problem

  13. get under one’s skin – to bother; to irritate; to annoy

  14. get up to speed – to learn how to do a new job or a new task

  15. get wind of – to find out about something; often sensitive information

  16. get with the program – to pay attention to what’s going on right now; to be alert to what’s happening now

  17. give it one’s best shot – to make one’s best effort to get something done; to try to do something, even though, you’re not sure if you’ll be successful

  18. give somebody an earful – to say what you really think, in detail (usually criticism and often more than the other person wants to hear)

  19. give somebody the green light – to give permission to move forward with a project

  20. go all out – to make a big effort; to try hard

  21. go back to the drawing board – to start a task over because the last try failed; to start again from the beginning

  22. go belly up – to go bankrupt

  23. go – getter – a hard – working, ambitious person; someone very good at delivering results at work

  24. go on about – to talk too long about; to talk for a long time about (always said as a criticism); to brag

  25. go the extra mile – to do more than what is expected or required

  26. good call – good decision

  27. grin and bear it – to put up with it; to pretend it doesn’t bother you

  28. guerrilla marketing – innovative methods to sell products; non-traditional methods of advertising or promotion that deliver good results with minimal spending

Note: The word “guerrilla” refers to carrying on a war using independent bands of soldiers, who tend to use very aggressive and non-traditional tactics to win battles

H

  1. half – baked idea – a stupid or impractical idea or suggestion

  2. hands-off – not too involved; passive; not interested in managing details

  3. hang in there – be patient; don’t get discouraged

  4. happy medium, a - a compromise

  5. hard sell, the – an aggressive way of selling

  6. have a chip on one’s shoulder – to remain angry about a past insult; to bear a grudge

Origin: This expression comes from the 19th century. Those looking for a fight placed a chip on their shoulder. If an opponent knocked it off, the fight was on. Although that custom has ended, use still says an angry person has a chip on his or her shoulder

  1. have a knack for something – to be skilled at something; to be naturally good at something (either in a positive or a negative way)

  2. have a lot on one’s plate – to have a lot to add; to have too much to do; to have too much to cope with

  3. have a rough night – to have a difficult evening or night

  4. have in mind – to be thinking of

  5. have some issues – to have some personality problems (a vague way of saying that somebody is not quite right in some way)

  6. head is on the chopping block, one’s – in a position where one is likely to be fired or get in trouble

  7. he’ll get his (she’ll get hers) – something bad will happen to him (her), just as he (or she) deserves

  8. hit the ground running – to have a successful start to a new job; to start at full speed

  9. hot – head – a bad tempered or very moody person; a violent person

  10. hunker down – to focus on work; to get ready to work hard; often involving a long period of time

Note: This phrase also means to stay indoors or to take shelter when the weather turns bad

I

  1. I beg to differ – I don’t agree (a formal way of telling somebody you don’t agree with them)

  2. I can’t believe my ears – I’m very surprised!

  3. I could’ve sworn that… - I really thought that; I was convinced that

Note: “Sworn” is the past perfect tense of “swear”

  1. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going – I’m so busy, I can barely think clearly; I’m not focused; I’m distracted

  2. I wasn’t born yesterday! – I’m not stupid; I’m not naïve

  3. icing on the cake – an additional advantage; when one good thing happens, then another good thing happens along with it

Note: Icing is the creaming glaze put on top of a cake to decorate it and make it sweeter. The cake is already good enough – putting icing on top is something extra which makes it even better

  1. in a nutshell – in summary; in short

  2. in a snit – in a bad mood; angry

  3. in deep trouble – having a serious problem; in crisis

  4. in hot water – in trouble

  5. in the bag – a sure thing

  6. in progress – happening; under way; going on

  7. in the red – losing money; when expenses are greater than revenues

  8. Note: This expression comes from the accounting practice of marking debits (subtractions to the account) in black. The opposite of “in the red” is “in the black,” meaning profitable

  9. in tip-top shape – in great condition; completely healthy

  10. Is there any room to negotiate? – Is it possible to negotiate? Are you flexible about the offer?

  11. issue at hand, the – the topic under discussion; what’s being talked about now

  12. It’s a deal – I agree (to a proposal or offer)

J

  1. jump ship – to quit a job; to leave a job suddenly

  2. jump the gun – to start doing something too soon or ahead of everybody else

  3. jump through hoops – to go through a lot of difficult work for something; to face many bureaucratic obstacles

  4. just for the record (also: for the record) – let me make my opinion clear

K

  1. keep an open mind – to be ready to accept new ideas and experiences

  2. keep one’s eye on the prize – to stay focused on the end result; to not let small problems get in the way of good results

Note – the variation – keep one’s eyes on the prize

  1. keep one’s head above water – to survive; to get by; to survive financial difficulties

  2. keep one’s nose to the grindstone – to focus on one’s work; to focus on working hard

Origin: A grindstone is a stone disk used for sharpening tools or grinding grain. To work the grindstone, you need to bend over it with your nose close to the stone

  1. keep someone in the loop – to let someone know what’s going on; to provide regular updates

  2. keep something under wraps – to keep something secret; to not let anybody know about a new project or plan

  3. Keep up the good work! – continue as you are; you’re doing well, continue to do well

  4. kick off – to start something, such as a meeting or a project

Note: You will also see the phrase “kick off meeting”, meaning the first meeting to get a new project started

  1. kiss up to someone – to try win favor with someone by flattering them

  2. know something inside and out – to know something very well

  3. Kudos to – I’d like to give credit to; I’d like to acknowledge

L

  1. last resort – if there are no other alternatives left; the last solution for getting out a difficulty

  2. last straw, the, - the final offence or annoyance that pushes one to take action

Origin: This saying comes from another expression that you may also hear: the straw that broke the camel’s back. When you load up a camel straw by straw, each individual straw doesn’t weigh much. However, eventually, the load will get so heavy that one extra straw will break the camel’s back. In the same ways people can tolerate small annoyances, but when there get to be too many, people finally get fed up and take action

  1. latest dirt, the - the latest gossip

  2. leapfrog one’s competitors – to make a product that is technologically superior to competitors’ products

Note: Leapfrog is a popular children’s game in which one child bends down and another jumps over him or her

  1. leaving us – leaving the company (note: often a polite way of saying someone’s been fired)

  2. lesser of two evils, the - when you have two unattractive options and you choose the one that is better; the better of two bad options

  3. let someone go – to fire someone

  4. let’s just agree to disagree – we don’t agree, but let’s not argue further; let’s accept our differences of opinion and move on

  5. likely story, a - that’s not true; I find that hard to believe

  6. live to regret a decision – to feel bad later about one’s decision

  7. look at oneself in the mirror – to face oneself

  8. lose one’s shirt – to lose everything one owns; to lose a lot of money in business; to make a very bad investment

M

  1. make a killing – to make a lot of money

Synonym: to make a fortune

  1. make a mountain out of a molehill – to make a big deal out of something small or insignificant

  2. make a pass at someone – to make a sexual advance toward someone

  3. make a splash – to make a big impact; to get a lot of attention

  4. make it up to you – to do something to compensate you for your trouble

  5. make money hand over fist – to make a lot of money; to make a lot of money fast

  6. make the grade – to succeed; to fulfill the requirements

  7. market share – the percentage of sales a company has in relation to its competitors for a product or product line

  8. me-too products – products that are extremely similar to another company’s products; copies

  9. mess around – to waste time; to spend time with no particular purpose or goal

  10. micro-manage – to manage too closely; to be too involved in the details

  11. mince words – to control one’s language so as to be polite

Note: Mince has two main meanings; in this expression, it means “to make less harsh”. It also means “to chop foods into tiny prices”

  1. miss the point – to not understand

  2. more bang for the buck – more value for one’s money; a higher return on investments

Note: A “buck” is slang for a “dollar”

  1. move on – 1) to proceed; 2) to leave a job and do something else

  2. mum’s the word – let’s keep quiet about this, I agree not to tell anyone about this

Origin: The word “mum” comes from the murmur “mmmmm”, the only sound you can make when your mouth is shut firmly. Try making other sounds besides “mmmmm” with your lips and mouth shut firmly, and you will see that it’s impossible!

  1. my gut tells me – I have a strong feeling that; my intuition tells me

  2. my hands are tied – there’s nothing I can do; I’m stuck; I have no alternatives

  3. my stomach (my head; my arm, etc.) is killing me – my stomach (my head, my arm, etc…) hurts very badly

N

  1. name of the game, the - the central issue; the most important thing; the main goal

  2. need like a hole in the head – to have no need for something; to have no desire for something

  3. new blood – new employees

  4. nickel-and-dime – to negotiate over very small sums; to try to get a better financial deal, in a negative way

Origin: After the penny, nickels and dimes are the smallest units of U.S. currency. Pennies, nickels, and dimes are common words in American English idioms related to money, finances, and value. Other examples of these expressions include: •pretty penny – a lot of money; too much money (when referring to the cost of something); •dime a dozen – very common and of no special value; •pinch pennies – to be careful with money; •a penny saved is a penny earned – you will save money by being careful about how much you spend; it’s wise to save your money

  1. nitty-gritty – the details

Note: The exact origins of this are unknown. This expression belongs to a class of fun expressions with sounds that repeat themselves. Other such expressions include: wishy-washy (ineffective; lacking will – power; indecisive; incapable of making clear decisions); itsy – bitsy (very small), fuddy-duddy (a boring, old-fashioned person), and mish-mash – (a strange combination of things)

  1. no-brainer – an energy decision; an obvious choice

  2. no can do – I can’t do that; I’m unable to satisfy your request

  3. no hard feelings – no anger; no bitterness

  4. no its, ands, or buts – no excuses; it’s absolutely necessary that; this is how it’s going to be no matter what anybody says

  5. no wonder – it’s not surprising that

  6. no big deal – it’s not a problem

  7. not a bad guy – an okay person (usually used when you don’t really like somebody, but you want to say that they’re basically not a bad person)

  8. not able to make heads or tails of – to be unable to interpret

  9. not all it’s cracked up to be – not as great as people think; not as great as its reputation

  10. not feel so hot – to feel sick; to not feel well

  11. not lift a finger – to not help at all; to do nothing

  12. not so hot – not very good

  13. nothing is set in stone – nothing is decided yet; things can still be changed

  14. nothing to sneeze at – not insignificant; impressive

  15. nothing ventured, nothing gained – If you don’t try to do something, you’ll never succeed

O

  1. of two minds – conflicted; having conflicting ideas about something

  2. off the record – just between us; unofficial; not to be repeated to others

  3. on a tight budget – to not have much money to spend; to have a limited amount to spend

  4. on board – ready to participate; in agreement

  5. on one’s high horse – (to be or to get) – to have an arrogant or superior attitude; to think one has all the answers

Note: The related expression: “Get off your high horse!” meaning to stop acting arrogant or superior

  1. on the dot – sharp; at an exact time

  2. on the make – This idiom has 2 very different meanings “1) actively looking for a sexual partner; 2) aggressively trying to improve one’s social or financial status”

  3. on the right track – proceeding in a good way; going in the right direction

  4. on the same page – to be in agreement; when everybody has the latest information on what’s going on

  5. on top of trends – modern; aware and responding to the latest tastes

  6. opportunity areas – weaknesses; skills that need to be improved

  7. out for oneself – selfish; just concerned with oneself and one’s own success; not caring about what happens to other people

  8. out of hand – (to be or to get out of hand) – to be too much; to be out of control

  9. out of one’s mind – crazy; having unrealistic thoughts or ideas

  10. out of one’s range – more than one wants to pay

  11. out of the loop – unaware of what’s going on

  12. out of the question – impossible

  13. out of touch with reality – unrealistic; not aware of what’s really going on

P

  1. pan out – to succeed; to bring the desired result

  2. pass the buck – to shift the blame; to blame somebody else

  3. pat on the back, a - credit; recognition; praise

  4. people person – somebody who likes working with people; a friendly person

  5. pitch in – to help; to contribute

  6. play one’s cards right – to make the most of one’s opportunities or situation

  7. plug a product – to promote a product; to talk positively about a product

  8. point fingers at each other – to blame

  9. politically correct (PC) – This expression refers to language or behavior that is carefully controlled (sometimes too controlled) to avoid offending people based on gender; ethnicity, etc. the concept emerged in the 1980’s in the United States. Nowadays, it often has a negative meaning

  10. pretty penny – a lot of money; too much money (when referring to the cost of something)

  11. pride oneself on – to be proud of; to recognize one’s own skill in a certain area

  12. pull one’s weight – to do one’s share of the work

Note the variation: to pull one’s own weight

  1. pull out all the stops – to use all one’s resources to get something done; to try very hard

Origin: This expression comes from the world of music. To increase the volume of a pipe organ, organists pull out stops (levers that control the volume)

  1. pull something off – to accomplish a difficult task; to successfully do something difficult

Synonym: to carry something off

  1. pull the plug – to put a stop to a project or initiative, usually because it’s not going well; to stop something from moving forward; to discontinue

Origin: This expression refers to removing a plug to make something stop working – when you pull the plug out of the wall, your appliance doesn’t work. In the 19th century, when this term originated, the plug was for a toilet. To flush the toilet, you had to pull out a plug

  1. pull the wool over one’s eyes- to deceive someone

  2. push one’s buttons – to annoy someone; to make someone angry

  3. push one’s luck – don’t try to get too much; be satisfied with what you’ve already gotten and don’t try to get more

  4. Note: the variation – to press one’s luck

  5. push the envelope – to go beyond what is normally done; to stretch the boundaries

  6. put a stake in the ground – to take the first step; to make a big move to get something started; to make a commitment

  7. put in one’s two cents – to offer one’s opinion; to give an opinion without being asked

  8. put in place – to establish; to start; to implement

  9. put one’s mind to something – to focus on a task; to try hard to do something

R

  1. R&R – rest and relaxation

  2. rally the troops – to motivate others; to get other people excited about doing something; to do something to improve the morale of the employees and get them energized about doing their work

Note: The verb “to rally” has several definitions, but in this case means to “call for a common goal or purpose”. Troops are an informal way of describing a group of employees. The term comes from the military – a troop is a military unit

  1. read between the lines to understand unclear or indirect communication; to interpret something from hints or suggestions

  2. real dog, a, - a bad product; a commercial failure

  3. reality check, a, - let’s think realistically about this situation (said when you don’t like something that’s being suggested because you don’t think the other person is thinking practically or logically)

  4. record – breaking – better than ever before; exceeding all previous results

  5. reduce headcount – to lay off or fire workers

Note: “Headcount” is the number of people who work at an organization. Many companies do not like to say that they are “laying people off” as it can sound cold and insensitive. After all, people are involved. “Reducing headcount” gets around this problem. It sounds less personal and more scientific

Synonym: to downsize

  1. rest on one’s laurels – to believe that past success is enough to guarantee that the future will also be successful; to rely too much on reputation

Origin: In Ancient Roman times, a crown made of laurels (from the laurel tree) was a symbol of victory

  1. review an offer – to think about an offer; to consider an offer

  2. rip off – to copy an idea; to steal

Note: “Rip off, a” is also a noun

  1. roll up one’s sleeves – to get ready to start something; to prepare to do something

  2. run a tight ship – to run something effectively and efficiently

  3. run for one’s money, a, - strong competition

Origin: this expression comes from the world of horse racing. It refers to a horse on which one has bet money and which comes close to winning but doesn’t win

  1. run in place – to not make any progress; to be stuck; to remain in the same place for a long period of time

  2. run the numbers – to perform financial calculations

  3. run one’s own show – to run one’s own business; to have control over an entire business or a part of a business

  4. run some ideas by (someone) – to discuss some new ideas

Note: also the singular form: to run an idea by someone

  1. run with an idea – to proceed with an idea

  2. running behind – to be late; to be delayed

Synonym: running late

S

  1. save a bundle – to save a lot of money

  2. scale back one’s hours – to reduce the number of hours one works

  3. see eye to eye – to be in agreement; to have the same opinion

  4. see the writing on the wall – to know what’s coming; to see what’s going to happen in the future

Note: the variation: handwriting on the wall

  1. settle down – to calm down; to become quiet

  2. Shape up or ship out! – improve your behavior or leave; if you don’t improve your performance, you’re going to get fired

Origin: This expression was first used in the U.S. military during World War Two, meaning: you’d better follow regulations and behave (“shape up”), or you’re going to be sent overseas to a war zone (“ship out”)

  1. share the credit – to acknowledge someone else’s contribution; to share with somebody else recognition for a job well done

  2. shell out – to pay (often more than one would like)

  3. sick and tired of – completely bored with; sick of; fed up with

  4. sign on new customers (or members) – to enlist new customers; to get customers to open an account or take a membership

  5. slave driver – a very demanding and often cruel boss or supervisor

Origin: In the days of slavery, the slave driver was the person who oversaw the slaves as they worked

  1. sleep on it – to think about a decision overnight; to take a day to decide on something

  2. slip one’s mind – be forgotten

Note: Notice that the subject is “it” in the expression “it slipped my mind”, making this the passive voice. It’s like this unknown “it” is responsible for the fact that you forgot to do something. In contrast, “I forgot” is the active voice. You’re taking more responsibility (and possibly more blame) when you say, “I forgot”.

  1. snap up – to buy for a very good price; to buy a large supply of something, usually because it’s on sale or in short supply

  2. spare us (or me) the sob story – don’t bother making excuses; don’t try to explain yourself

Note: “Sob” means cry

  1. spark one’s interest – to raise one’s interest; to cause one to become interested in

  2. split the difference – to accept a figure halfway in between; to compromise

  3. stand firm – to remain at; to not offer more than; to resist; to refuse to yield to

  4. stand one’s ground – to maintain and defend one’s position; to refuse to give up one’s position

  5. start-up – a small business, usually one that’s been operating five years or less (and often in the technology industry)

  6. steer clear of – to avoid or stay away from someone or something

  7. step up to the plate – to take action; to do one’s best; to volunteer

Note: This expression comes from baseball. You step up to the plate (a plastic mat on the ground) when it’s your turn to hit the ball

  1. stepping stone – a way of advancing or getting to the next stage; a position, a product, or an activity that comes first and prepares the way for what will come next

  2. stocking stuffer – a small gift given at Christmas time

  3. stressed out – under severe strain; very anxious; very nervous

  4. strike gold – to make a very profitable deal; to discover something valuable

  5. strike it rich – to attain sudden financial success; to get rich quickly

  6. strike out – to fail

  7. swamped – to have too much work to do; to be extremely busy

T

  1. tagline – a slogan; a phrase used to promote a product

  2. take a crack at something – to try something

Synonym: to have a go at something

  1. take credit for something – to claim recognition for something

  2. take it easy – to relax; to rest; to not do too much

  3. take it from there – to wait and see what else needs to be done; to take just one step and then decide what to do next

  4. take someone into one’s confidence – to tell somebody something confidentially; to tell somebody sensitive information

  5. take the ball and run with it – to take initiative; to take charge without a lot of supervision

  6. take the cake – to rank first; to be the best or worst example of something

Origin: Dating back to Ancient Greek times, a cake was a popular prize given to a contest winner

  1. talk about – that’s an example of

  2. talk behind someone’s back – to gossip about somebody; to say negative things about somebody who’s not around

  3. talk someone into something – to convince someone to do something, often something that one later regrets

  4. team player – somebody willing to help out for the benefit of the group

  5. team spirit – enthusiasm; enthusiasm about doing something for the group

  6. Tell me about it! – I agree with you

  7. test the waters – to try something out before committing to it; to see what the response or outcome will be to an intended action

  8. that’s putting it lightly – that’s definitely true; that’s for sure; that’s an understatement

  9. there’s something going around – there’s an illness travelling around the office; many people are getting sick from some illness

  10. think outside the box – to think creatively; to think in a new and different way

  11. Origin: This phrase refers to a puzzle used by consultants in the 1970s and 1980s. To solve it, you must connect nine dots, using four straight lines drawn continuously. ::: Your pen must never leave the paper. (The only solution to this puzzle is to draw lines outside the border of the box. Therefore, you must “think outside the box” to solve the puzzle)

  12. think twice – to think more carefully before doing something in the future; to not repeat a mistake one has made

  13. through the roof – very high; higher than expected

  14. throw cold water over (an idea, a plan) – to present reasons why something will not work; to discourage

Note : the variation: to throw cold water on

  1. throw in the towel – to give up; to surrender; to admit defeat

Origin: This idiom comes from boxing. When a fighter was losing a match his assistant would toss a towel into the ring to signal defeat and end the game. That towel was the same one used to wipe the sweat and blood off the boxer’s face

  1. throw in something – to include something (usually for free, as part of the sale)

  2. to the tune of (followed by a number) – in the amount of; approximately

  3. touch base with – to get in contact with; to make brief contact with

  4. tough call – a difficult decision; something difficult to predict

  5. track something down – to find, usually with difficulty

  6. track record – a record of achievement or performances

  7. tricks of the trade – clever shortcuts gained by experience

  8. turn a blind eye to something – to ignore a problem or an issue; to refuse to recognize

  9. turn around one’s business – to make a business profitable again; to go from not making profits to being profitable again

  10. 24-7 (twenty-four seven) – around the clock; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

  11. twist somebody’s arm – to convince somebody; to talk somebody into doing something

U

  1. un-PC – insensitive; offensive; not politically correct (PC)

  2. under one’s belt – (to get or to have under one’s belt) – to get or to have experience

  3. under the weather – not feeling well

  4. until one is blue in the face – for a very long time, with no results

  5. up to one’s ears in work – to have a lot of work; to have too much work

  6. up to one’s old tricks – repeating the same behavior as before (usually annoying, dishonest, or sneaky behavior)

  7. up to scratch – good; at the expected level

W

  1. walls have ears, the – you never know when somebody might be listening to your “private” conversation

  2. wash one’s hands of – to remove any association with; to stop being part of something; to refuse to take responsibility for

Origin: This expression comes from the Bible. Pontius Pilate, a Roman official, announced before a crowd that he wouldn’t save Jesus from execution. Then he washed his hands in front of the crowd, symbolically washing away the responsibility

  1. We’ve been down before, but we always come back fighting – everything is going to be okay; we’ve had trouble in the past too, and we managed to get over that

  2. wear many hats – to perform many different job responsibilities; to play many different roles

  3. weigh another offer – to consider another offer, usually a job offer

  4. weigh in on – to say something about; to comment on; to express an opinion

  5. what goes around comes around – people usually get what they deserve in the end

  6. What’s the deal? – What’s going on? What’s happened? What’s the explanation?

  7. What’s up? – 1)What’s happening? What’s new? 2) A polite way of asking “What do you want?” when somebody calls or comes into your office

  8. when push comes to shove – when really tested; when it really counts; when there’s no more time left to hesitate or think about what action to take

Synonym: when you come right down to it

  1. Where to begin? – There is so much to say, I have to think about where to start (usually used when you’re about to complain and you want to stress that there’s a lot to complain about)

  2. Why mess with success? – Why start doing things differently when the way we’re doing them now is working?

  3. wiped out – very tired; exhausted

  4. wishy-washy – ineffective; lacking will-power; indecisive; incapable of making clear decisions

  5. work down to the wire – to work until the last minute; to work until just before the deadline

Note: This expression comes from horse racing. In the 19th century, American racetracks placed wire across the track above the finish line. The wire helped determine which horse’s nose crossed the line first. If a race was “down to the wire”, it was a very close race, undecided until the very last second

  1. work has slipped, one’s – one’s performance has gotten worse; one is not doing one’s job properly

  2. work one’s tail off – to work very hard

  3. work out the kinks – to solve the problem with

  4. Note: A “Kink” is a problem or flaw in a system or plan

Y

  1. yes man – an employee who always agrees with the boss or does whatever the boss says

  2. You took the words right out of my mouth! – I completely agree with you; I was just going to say that

CONTENTS



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