give the business


  1. an occupation, profession, or trade: His business is poultry farming.
  2. the purchase and sale of goods in an attempt to make a profit.
  3. a person, partnership, or corporation engaged in commerce, manufacturing, or a service; profit-seeking enterprise or concern.
  4. volume of trade; patronage: Most of the store’s business comes from local families.
  5. 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.
  6. that with which a person is principally and seriously concerned: Words are a writer’s business.
  7. something with which a person is rightfully concerned: What they are doing is none of my business.
  8. affair; project: We were exasperated by the whole business.
  9. an assignment or task; chore: It’s your business to wash the dishes now.
  10. 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.
  11. excrement: used as a euphemism.


  1. of, noting, or pertaining to business, its organization, or its procedures.
  2. containing, suitable for, or welcoming business or commerce: New York is a good business town.
  1. business is business, profit has precedence over personal considerations: He is reluctant to fire his friend, but business is business.
  2. do one’s business, (usually of an animal or child) to defecate or urinate: housebreaking a puppy to do his business outdoors.
  3. get down to business, to apply oneself to serious matters; concentrate on work: They finally got down to business and signed the contract.
  4. 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.
  5. have no business, to have no right: You have no business coming into this house.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


  1. a trade or profession
  2. an industrial, commercial, or professional operation; purchase and sale of goods and servicesthe tailoring business
  3. a commercial or industrial establishment, such as a firm or factory
  4. commercial activity; dealings (esp in the phrase do business)
  5. volume or quantity of commercial activitybusiness is poor today
  6. commercial policy or procedureovercharging is bad business
  7. proper or rightful concern or responsibility (often in the phrase mind one’s own business)
  8. a special task; assignment
  9. a matter or matters to be attended tothe business of the meeting
  10. an affair; mattera queer business; I’m tired of the whole business
  11. serious work or activityget down to business
  12. a complicated affair; rigmarole
  13. informal a vaguely defined collection or areajets, fast cars, and all that business
  14. Also called: stage business theatre an incidental action, such as lighting a pipe, performed by an actor for dramatic effect
  15. a group of ferrets
  16. euphemistic defecation (esp in the phrase do one’s business)
  17. slang prostitution
  18. like nobody’s business informal extremely well or fast
  19. mean business to be in earnest
  20. do the business informal to achieve what is requiredit tastes vile, but it does the 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.”

see the business.

In addition to the idiom beginning with business

  • business as usual

also see:

  • funny business
  • get down to (business)
  • go about (one’s business)
  • have no business doing
  • land-office business
  • like mad (nobody’s business)
  • make it one’s business
  • mean business
  • mind one’s own business
  • monkey business
  • none of one’s business
  • out of business
  • send someone about his or her business
  • the business
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