English in the workplace can almost feel like another language! There are so many idioms and phrases that seemingly have nothing to do with business, yet they are heard in meetings around the world every day. 

Here are the meanings behind 14 of these tricky (but really useful!) phrases.

Touch base

English uses many sports analogies, and this one comes from baseball. In baseball, a runner must touch each base before they can score, and in business, you must make contact or communicate with others regularly to be successful.

Circle back

Circle back is another way to say return to a topic at another point in time. It’s often used when there might not be enough time to fully discuss something or when the discussion isn’t really moving forward anymore.

Good to go

This short phrase means that you’re ready to start doing something. You have everything you need and are ready to begin, in other words, you are good to go!


The word sync (and the phrase sync up) is short for synchronize, which means two or more things working together. In the business world, sync is used to refer to the process of re-connecting and re-aligning with colleagues, often in regularly scheduled meetings. It can be a verb (to sync about something) or a noun (let's chat in our next sync).


No one likes to talk about things like planned cancellations or endings, especially in the business world, which is why the term sunsetting has become a common alternative. It has an almost poetic sound to it!

Loop someone in

Looping someone in means to keep them informed. It’s often used when you’re going to let someone else know about a potential change or action.

All hands on deck

Sometimes abbreviated to AHOD, this idiom means that everyone (all hands) must be available and ready to assist (on deck). Interestingly, this phrase was first used in sailing, which makes sense because deck literally means the floor of a ship where sailors gather in an emergency.

We'll have to punt

Ah, another sports reference! In American football, punting refers to a specific strategic play, but in business it means to give up or reprioritize something.

To flesh something out

While the literal meaning of flesh is the part of a body between the skin and bones, the expression flesh something out is used when you want to make something more complete by adding details.

To think outside the box

This classic phrase means to think in a creative or innovative way, which is a great quality to have both in business AND in language learning!

No need to reinvent the wheel

This idiom includes a reference to one of the most important human inventions: the wheel! It means that sometimes it’s actually more useful to take a previously existing idea and build from it rather than change it completely.

Get your ducks in a row

Life in the business sphere can be hectic, so it’s often very useful to get all your ducks in a row, or organize all your tasks and schedule so that you’re ready for whatever’s next.

Bite the bullet

Bite the bullet sounds like it might hurt, which makes sense because this expression means to do something unpleasant usually because you have to. Better bite the bullet and commit these English idioms to memory!

Put something on the back burner

The back burner refers to the back part of a stove, which is usually used less often, and for this reason, putting something on the back burner means to put something on hold or consider doing it later.

Circle back for more English tips!

Now you can use these common English business idioms effectively in your next meeting… ahem, *sync*!