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Business English – Some Common Jargon

Business English Jargon

A very popular course that we offer at Bloomsbury International is Business English, also called English for Business. A Business English course won’t just teach you the English language, but it’ll help you to apply your language skills in a business environment. Among the many things you’ll cover on a Business English course, you will probably find that some time is dedicated to learning some common jargon and idioms that you may come across in a business workplace.

Here’s a summary of some common jargon you might hear in a business environment. To learn some more, speak to your Business English tutor:

Corporate business team and manager in a meeting, close up

An old hand

If someone is an old hand, it means they’ve been in the company or industry for a long time, and are skilled, knowledgeable and experienced.

Example: “Let’s put Bill on this project. He’s an old hand at this.”

At the 11th hour

If something happens at the 11th hour, it means it occurred only just in time or just before the deadline.

Example: “The contract was signed at the 11th hour.”


business english, brainstormingA brainstorm, or a brainstorming meeting, is where different staff members meet to generate and discuss ideas for a piece of work or project.

Example: “I’m not sure how we’re going to achieve our goals: let’s have a brainstorming session so we can get some ideas.”

Bring to the table

If you hear people talking about what someone brings to the table, they’re talking about the skills, experience or knowledge that person has to offer.

Example: “Penny is very good at dealing with accounts. She’ll bring a lot to the table on this project.”


If you hear someone mention the c-suite, they’re not talking about a room or set of rooms. It refers to the top executives of a company, whose titles often begin with the letter “c” – for example Chief Executive, Chief Operating Officer or Chief Financial Officer.


Deliverables are the desired products or outcomes that a project or piece of work will produce. It’s a term you will hear if you get involved in project management.

Example: “It’s time to work out what the deliverables are for this project.”


This normally refers to periods of time when certain computing or technological equipment is out of action. For example, if the information technology department of a company wants to stop staff accessing a certain program while they carry out an upgrade, they may inform you that there will be a “period of downtime”.

From scratch

If something is done from scratch, it means you have to start at the very beginning.

Example: “This was a completely new project for the company. We had to start from scratch.”

Number crunching

Number crunching refers to the kind of work that is done by accountants, statistical analysts and computer programmers – in fact, anything involving numbers!

Example: “Over here is the accounting department: they’re the number crunchers of the organisation.”

Reinvent the wheel

Reinventing the wheel is something you want to avoid – it means you’re creating something that has already been created.

Example: “Let’s look at how they measured outcomes on the last project – we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”

Smoke and mirrors

If you hear someone refer to smoke and mirrors, it means that there has been some kind of deception that distorts the truth. The source of the idiom comes from magicians’ tricks, which can often involve smoke and mirrors on stage to create an illusion.

Example: “The consultant tried to fool the client into believing they had the skills and capacity to deliver on their promises, but it was all smoke and mirrors.”

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