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Avoid these words. Seriously.


[biz-nis] /ˈbɪz nɪs/
an occupation, profession, or trade:
His business is poultry farming.
the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.
a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern.
volume of trade; patronage:
Most of the store's business comes from local families.
a building or site where commercial work is carried on, as a factory, store, or office; place of work:
His business is on the corner of Broadway and Elm Street.
that with which a person is principally and seriously concerned:
Words are a writer's business.
something with which a person is rightfully concerned:
What they are doing is none of my business.
affair; project:
We were exasperated by the whole business.
an assignment or task; chore:
It's your business to wash the dishes now.
Also called piece of business, stage business. Theater. a movement or gesture, especially a minor one, used by an actor to give expressiveness, drama, detail, etc., to a scene or to help portray a character.
excrement: used as a euphemism.
of, noting, or pertaining to business, its organization, or its procedures.
containing, suitable for, or welcoming business or commerce:
New York is a good business town.
business is business, profit has precedence over personal considerations:
He is reluctant to fire his friend, but business is business.
do one's business, (usually of an animal or child) to defecate or urinate:
housebreaking a puppy to do his business outdoors.
get down to business, to apply oneself to serious matters; concentrate on work:
They finally got down to business and signed the contract.
give someone the business, Informal.
  1. to make difficulties for someone; treat harshly:
    Instead of a straight answer they give him the business with a needless run-around.
  2. to scold severely; give a tongue-lashing to:
    The passengers will give the bus driver the business if he keeps driving so recklessly.
have no business, to have no right:
You have no business coming into this house.
mean business, to propose to take action or be serious in intent; be in earnest:
By the fire in his eye we knew that he meant business.
mind one's own business, to refrain from meddling in the affairs of others:
When he inquired about the noise coming from the neighbor's apartment, he was told to mind his own business.
Origin of business
before 950; Middle English; Old English bisignes. See busy, -ness
Related forms
antibusiness, adjective
interbusiness, adjective
multibusiness, adjective
nonbusiness, adjective
overbusiness, noun
probusiness, adjective
1. calling, vocation, employment. 2. commerce, trade, traffic. 3. company, firm.
Synonym Study
1. See occupation.
Pronunciation note
See isn't. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mean business
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • They mean business—maybe they're going for food or water, or both.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • “They mean business,” commented Wheeler, with a snap in his dark eyes.

    The Greater Power Harold Bindloss
  • If they are armed, and mean business, we are only offering them a shot.

    Two Sides of the Face Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
  • I mean business, and do not allow any alfalfa to grow under my feet.

  • We cant afford to waste 300 time fooling, and we mean business.

    Frank Merriwell's Triumph Burt L. Standish
  • He means business, said Wilfred; but he will find that I mean business, too.

    Secret Service

    Cyrus Townsend Brady
  • You and I mean business, and thats what we are after, and can get along in our every day wear.

    Fighting the Sea Edward A. Rand
  • I mean business, and no collars for a quarter are going to do.

    Aunt Crete's Emancipation Grace Livingston Hill
British Dictionary definitions for mean business


a trade or profession
an industrial, commercial, or professional operation; purchase and sale of goods and services: the tailoring business
a commercial or industrial establishment, such as a firm or factory
commercial activity; dealings (esp in the phrase do business)
volume or quantity of commercial activity: business is poor today
commercial policy or procedure: overcharging is bad business
proper or rightful concern or responsibility (often in the phrase mind one's own business)
a special task; assignment
a matter or matters to be attended to: the business of the meeting
an affair; matter: a queer business, I'm tired of the whole business
serious work or activity: get down to business
a complicated affair; rigmarole
(informal) a vaguely defined collection or area: jets, fast cars, and all that business
(theatre) Also called stage business. an incidental action, such as lighting a pipe, performed by an actor for dramatic effect
a group of ferrets
(euphemistic) defecation (esp in the phrase do one's business)
(slang) prostitution
(informal) like nobody's business, extremely well or fast
mean business, to be in earnest
(informal) do the business, to achieve what is required: it tastes vile, but it does the business
Word Origin
Old English bisignis solicitude, attentiveness, from bisigbusy + -nis-ness
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mean business



Old English bisignes (Northumbrian) "care, anxiety, occupation," from bisig "careful, anxious, busy, occupied, diligent" (see busy (adj.)) + -ness. Middle English sense of "state of being much occupied or engaged" (mid-14c.) is obsolete, replaced by busyness.

Sense of "a person's work, occupation" is first recorded late 14c. (in late Old English bisig (adj.) appears as a noun with the sense "occupation, state of employment"). Meaning "what one is about at the moment" is from 1590s. Sense of "trade, commercial engagements" is first attested 1727. In 17c. it also could mean "sexual intercourse." Modern two-syllable pronunciation is 17c.

Business card first attested 1840; business letter from 1766. Business end "the practical or effective part" (of something) is American English, by 1874. Phrase business as usual attested from 1865. To mean business "be intent on serious action" is from 1856. To mind (one's) own business is from 1620s. Johnson's dictionary also has busiless "At leisure; without business; unemployed."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for mean business

mean business

verb phrase

To be seriously in earnest: show these guys that we mean business (1857+)



Excrement, esp that of a house pet (1645+)

Related Terms

in business, know one's onions, monkey business, that's show business

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with mean business

mean business

Be in earnest. For example, He really means business with this deadline. This idiom uses business in the sense of “a serious endeavor.” [ Mid-1800s ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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