Definition of business in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbiznəs/


1A person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade: she had to do a lot of smiling in her business are you here on business?
More example sentences
  • He was in Japan, a guest of the Japanese consulate on business in his other profession as writer and journalist.
  • Ashraf regularly flew to Pakistan from Glasgow airport on business.
  • Zurich surveyed firms to see if they carry out risk assessments of employees before letting them drive on business.
work, line of work, occupation, profession, career, employment, job, position;
field, sphere, trade, métier, craft
informal biz, racket, game
1.1An activity that someone is engaged in: what is your business here?
More example sentences
  • Her fortnight in the city passed quickly, a whirl of business and unavoidable social engagements.
  • Nor was this the only business in which Bevan engaged in the course of that year.
  • It will be up to him to engage in the smoke-and-mirror business of political negotiation at a European level in the next week.
1.2A person’s concern: it’s not my business to interfere the neighbors make it their business to know all about you
More example sentences
  • I know that his personal well-being is none of my business, but somehow it's hard not to worry about Harry.
  • It's none of our business to control what the NCC thinks or says about politics.
  • I did some other things that were on the list but those are none of your business.
concern, affair, responsibility, duty, function, obligation;
problem, worry
informal beeswax, bailiwick
1.3Work that has to be done or matters that have to be attended to: government business let’s get down to business
More example sentences
  • This year however she returned to school late due to business she had to attend back home.
  • After giving up that business they attended a number of courses lasting from one to three days.
  • Balloonist Rick Walczak plans to attend to some unfinished business in the next few weeks.
2The practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce: the world of business whom do you do business with in Manila? the jewelry business [as modifier]: the business community
More example sentences
  • Then there's Lord Haskin's task force, attempting to reduce the burden of regulation on business.
  • He believed it would have an adverse affect on business and trade in the community.
  • He believed it would have adverse effect on business and trade in the community.
2.1Trade considered in terms of its volume or profitability: how’s business?
More example sentences
  • Ahead of the opening of European markets traders were divided over the likely volume of business.
  • They are competing in terms of business but will join together when it will help to bring about benefits for retail across the board.
  • The bush telegraph has never made so much money; telecomms deregulation has no effect on volume business.
2.2A commercial operation or company: a catering business
More example sentences
  • New Labour prefers to give state money to private businesses to run public services.
  • A city is composed of units too, people and houses and businesses and all the rest.
  • Several rival operators have put their businesses on the market in the hope of cashing in.
office, agency, franchise, practice
informal outfit
3 [in singular] informal An affair or series of events, typically a scandalous or discreditable one: they must be told about this blackmailing business
More example sentences
  • In a word, I have to invite the reader to come in backward upon the whole business.
  • She found the whole business of arguing backward and forward about the same detail utterly boring.
  • You see I'm no lawyer, but I happen to know that the business of court cases is a process.
3.1 informal A group of related or previously mentioned things: use carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli, and serve the whole business hot
More example sentences
  • Talk Politics has a good post on His Bobness, Blair and the whole G8 business.
  • I realised then all over again just how vexed this whole business of Indianness actually is.
  • She has been very quiet throughout this whole business, she has kept silent in the hope that this would help her get bail.
4 theatrical slang Actions other than dialogue performed by actors: a piece of business
More example sentences
  • What these critics are missing is the stage business that occurs during the dialogue.
  • Moreover, it deliberately made use of the modern in its stage business.
  • Like Marmite, you either savour this daft stage business or you wish its energy was never let out of the jar.
5 informal A scolding; harsh verbal criticism: the supervisor really gave him the business
More example sentences
  • At Rice-Eccles Stadium, he spent as much time as he could on the field, near the sidelines, where Ute fans gave him the business, and he gave it back.
  • But, the rest of the group was rather unforgiving and gave him "the business" for the entire rest of the trip, even though he had more than compensated for his tardiness by doing much of the digging and pulling of luggage.
  • Either way Kobe gave him the business.



business as usual

An unchanging state of affairs despite difficulties or disturbances: apart from being under new management, it’s business as usual in the department
More example sentences
  • He said after a meeting on Wednesday night that it would be business as usual despite the ongoing situation.
  • So the official line was that it will be business as usual despite the warning.
  • At Manchester Airport it was business as usual despite a four-day walkout by security staff.

have no business

Have no right to do something or be somewhere: he had no business tampering with social services
More example sentences
  • I think Trudeau's philosophy of the government having no business in the bedrooms of this nation isn't such a bad idea.
  • Since these auto parts makers rely so heavily on such a small number of companies to sell to, they have no business but to actively involve in cutting their own throats.
  • They fail to discourage behaviour which harms others while getting more and more involved in trying to control private behaviour where they have no business to interfere.

in business

Operating, especially in commerce: they will have to import from overseas to remain in business
More example sentences
  • He said he would have remained in business if trade had continued to grow at the rate it was before the roadworks.
  • She fails to ask whether drugs companies would remain in business if they had no patents.
  • Those who cannot keep their customers happy do not deserve to remain in business.
informal3.1 Able to begin operations: if you’ll contact the right people, I think we’ll be in business
More example sentences
  • Instantly on arrival at Balmoor an hour before kick-off there was evidence that this cup tie was in business.
  • Another 15 minutes of piped music, and now we're in business.
  • When you buy a PhaseOne Package we will give you a wide format printer, now you're in business!

in the business of

Engaged in or prepared to engage in: I am not in the business of making accusations
More example sentences
  • So much so that he is now engaged in the business of giving a few lessons to those in the Capital ready to explore the world of wines.
  • As far as I'm concerned we shouldn't be in the business of further feeding what are already pretty plump cats.
  • We're in the business of consciously and unconsciously changing our memories everyday.

like nobody's business

informal To an extraordinarily high degree or standard: these weeds spread like nobody’s business
More example sentences
  • Brenda Watson, 39, said: ‘They go through here like nobody's business.’
  • ‘On the day itself, it was raining like nobody's business,’ he said.
  • I bet I could draw jam-pots like nobody's business.

mean business

Be in earnest.
Example sentences
  • Eight businesses were based in Michigan, seven in New York, nineteen in Colorado, and fifteen in Montana, showing that salmon mean business across the nation.
  • Community colleges mean business.
  • This team means business. We are not there to show off. We want to achieve something together.

mind one's own business

Refrain from meddling in other people’s affairs: he was yelling at her to get out and mind her own business
More example sentences
  • Fortunately, not everyone minds his own business, and one day I was approached by just such a person.
  • By neighbors’ accounts, Jamie keeps quiet and minds her own business, but the board stood firm.
  • There's an older gentleman sitting next to me, seeming to be trying to mind his own business too.

be none of one's business

Not be of direct relevance or concern to one: their finances are none of your business what goes on between Gabriel and me is none of your business
More example sentences
  • Tell your housekeeper that my behaviour is none of her business.
  • He had chosen to speak about something that is none of his business.
  • My own belief is that the board's first response should have been that the whole matter was none of its business.

send someone about his/her business

dated Tell someone to go away.
Example sentences
  • But Steward-of-the-Games Rutilianus sent them about their business ungarlanded, and continued the defunct Alexander in possession of his holy office.
  • They are declaimers and speechifiers, whom I will send about their business.
  • "None but them I can send about their business if you wish," replied the man.


Old English bisignis(see busy, -ness). The sense in Old English was 'anxiety'; the sense 'the state of being busy' was used from Middle English down to the 18th century, but is now differentiated as busyness. The sense 'an appointed task' dates from late Middle English, and from it all the other current senses have developed.

  • Old English bisignis meant ‘anxiety’, but the main early sense, which lasted from the Middle Ages down to the 18th century, was ‘the state of being busy’. The modern senses began to develop in the later Middle Ages, and the meanings existed happily in parallel for several hundred years. Then people began to feel that a clear distinction needed to be made between simply being busy and having business to attend to. In the early 19th century this resulted in the form busyness, the exact equivalent of bisignis.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: busi·ness

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