Definition of business in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈbɪznəs/


[mass noun]
1A person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade: experts who typically conduct their business over the Internet
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.
Scottish  way;
French métier
informal racket, game
Australian informal grip
archaic employ
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 neighbours 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.
informal funeral, headache, bailiwick
British informal pigeon, baby
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.
2Commercial activity: firms who want to do business with Japan the tea 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? the banks are continuing to lose 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.
2.2 [count noun] A 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.
3Australian (In Aboriginal English) traditional law and ritual.
Example sentences
  • Ready access to a reliable source of food made the mission a valuable meeting place for traditional business.
  • He worked there for about twenty years except for short breaks to carry out tribal business.
  • We want the right to perform business and law of significance to our culture.
4 [in singular] informal A situation or series of events, typically a scandalous or discreditable one: maybe something positive will come out of the whole awful 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.
affair, matter, thing, issue, case, set of circumstances, circumstance, situation, occasion, experience, event, incident, happening, occurrence, phenomenon, eventuality, episode, interlude, adventure
4.1A difficult matter: what a business!
More example sentences
  • It is true that prediction is a difficult business, especially when it involves the future.
  • Agreeing an interview venue with Stella Tennant should be a difficult business.
  • Then, as now, serving the Law and your conscience is a difficult business.
5 theatrical slang Actions on stage other than dialogue.
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.
6 (the business) British informal A very enjoyable or popular person or thing: this brandy is the business
More example sentences
  • Thanks for being on time, in fact thanks for waiting for me as I was late - your valet parking service really is the business if you are in business!
  • Like we've said - our Business Premier Class really is The Business.
  • This one really is the business for anyone with an entrepreneurial notion, who wants a resource on all aspects of running a business.
7 [count noun] (also busyness) rare A group of ferrets: his goons will go through the ship like a business of ferrets
More example sentences
  • It's a "business of ferrets", according to my coworker, and no comment on whether or not this is kind to businessmen.
  • There were currently two ferrets in Herbert's business.
  • He was on the Thames headed seaward in company with two ponies and a business of ferrets.



any other business

British Matters not listed on the agenda of a meeting, raised after the items on the agenda have been discussed: the head teacher deliberately retained the item for any other business
More example sentences
  • When he failed to get a seconder he had to resort to raising the issue under "Any Other Business".
  • Any other business: it would seem to be time to admit that my turnout forecast for the elections was hopelessly wrong.
  • Under any other business, the chairman informed the meeting the village Christmas lights will switch on this year on Friday 10 December.

business as usual

An ongoing and 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.

do the business

British informal
Do what is required or achieve the desired result: Rogers has got to do the business, score a hat trick or something
More example sentences
  • They went out, played professionally, did the business and achieved their goal, by winning the three points.
  • HIS comeback fight had been billed as ‘back to business’, but Alex Arthur could not have anticipated doing the business in quite such quick-time fashion as he achieved at Meadowbank last night.
  • Should they not sit back and retire and let the young guns do the business, enjoying the fruits of their labours and play golf for fun again?
vulgar slang3.1 Have sexual intercourse.

get down to business

Begin matters in earnest: the manager appeared and we got down to business
More example sentences
  • I recognized beyond any shadow of a doubt that I had to marry this woman, though it took me a few months to actually get down to business.
  • That would be a good time for them to give their highly public differences a rest and get down to business.
  • Whether you are talking to a bank teller or visiting a friend, it is considered rude not to engage in a proper greeting before getting down to business.

go about one's business

Occupy oneself with one’s normal activities or routine: she’s one of those people who quietly goes about her business
More example sentences
  • They used covert cameras and created a sequence of shots of the unsuspecting woman going about her daily business.
  • This was a seemingly unprovoked attack on an innocent person going about his business in the bus station.
  • He has gone about his business quietly, never once feeling the need to tell the world of his greatness.

have no business

Have no right to do something: 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.
informal7.1 Able to begin operations: if you’ll contact the right people, I should think we’re 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, chiefly British 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.

mind one's own business

Refrain from meddling in other people’s affairs.
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 their 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 'anxiety' (see busy, -ness); the sense 'state of being busy' was used from Middle English down to the 18th century, but is now differentiated as busyness. The use '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

Line breaks: busi|ness

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