Business – definition and meaning

The word Business has several meanings, depending on its context. A preposition before or after it may also change the meaning of the word. The term can mean the activity of buying and selling goods and services, a particular company, a whole market sector, or being away working. Additionally, it may refer to themes, issues, affairs, or situations that we need to address.

The versatility of ‘business’ also extends to idiomatic expressions, such as ‘mind your own business’ or ‘get down to business’, indicating its deep integration into both formal and colloquial language.

We use the term both in commercial, financial, as well as everyday situations.

Image depicting business and its meaning
Image created by Market Business News.

Origin of the term

The term comes from the Old English ‘bisignis’, which meant ‘anxiety, care, occupation.‘Bisignis’ came from ‘bisig,’ which meant ‘busy, occupied, diligent, anxious, careful.’

The word gradually evolved into ‘busyness’ and then into its modern spelling with all its current meanings. Old English was the language of the Anglo-Saxons up to about 1150.

Some meanings of ‘business’

The buying and selling of goods and services: as in “They do not work in the public sector, they are in business.”

A company or firm. In other words, a commercial enterprise that buys and sells goods and services in the pursuit of profit.

Businesses, i.e., companies, are widespread in free-market economies. Private individuals own most of them. However, in some free-market economies, strategic sectors such as energy and transport belong to the state.

Out of businesses come products, services, and jobs. Most of what we buy comes from businesses. A lot of what we do is part of many types of businesses.

Although most companies are profit-making, some of them are not-for-profit. In other words, some entities have non-commercial reasons for existing.

  • A whole market sector, as in “It has been a bad year for the oil and real estate businesses.” Examples of different sectors are agriculture, mining, finance, IT, publishing, manufacturing, real estate, construction, retailing, wholesale, and transportation.
  • Compound forms, such as agribusiness, represent subsets of the word’s broader meaning.
  • To be away working: as in “Fred is in Japan on business.”
  • Patronage or commercial dealings: meaning to stop being a supplier’s customer. For example “After hearing about the scandal, Mary decided to take her business elsewhere.”
  • To describe levels of sales: as in “Business is good this year.” You would say this if sales have increased considerably.
  • A class of air travel: as in “John always travels business class when he flies. He says economy (coach) is too uncomfortable and first class is too expensive.”

Non-business meanings

  • A scolding, a telling off: as in “My mother gave me the business for not washing the dishes.”
  • To be serious: as in “I mean business.” (I am not joking)
  • A pet’s bowel movement: as in “My dog takes ages to do his business when he hears fireworks.

Compound phrases containing the term ‘business’

A compound phrase is a term consisting of two or more words. For example, the term ‘business plan’ is a two-word compound phrase. In the English language, there are many two-word, three-word, and four-word compound phrases containing the term ‘business.’ Let’s have a look at ten popular two-word compound phrases:

  • Business plan

A detailed document describing the strategy and goals of a business.

For example: “They secured funding after presenting a solid business plan.”

  • Business ethics

Moral principles that guide the way a business behaves.

For example: “Their company is known for its strict business ethics.”

  • Business cycle

The fluctuations in economic activity that an economy experiences over time.

For example: “The economy is currently in an expansion phase of the business cycle.”

  • Business case

A justification for a proposed project or undertaking on the basis of its expected commercial benefit.

For example: “He made a compelling business case for the new marketing strategy.”

  • Business partner

An individual or company that collaborates with another in a shared business venture.

For example: “She frequently traveled abroad to meet with her business partners.”

  • Business unit

A segment of a company representing a specific business function.

For example: “He is the head of the consumer electronics business unit.”

  • Business intelligence

Technologies and practices for the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information.

For example: “They used business intelligence tools to predict market trends.”

  • Business law

The body of law that governs business and commercial transactions.

For example: “He specialized in business law to better understand corporate governance.”

  • Business class

A class of air travel offering higher quality accommodations than economy class.

For example: “She always books business class for long-haul flights.”

  • Business development

The creation of long-term value for an organization from customers, markets, and relationships.

For example: “His role in business development has expanded the company’s market reach.”

Types of people

Some compound phrases containing the word ‘business’ describe specific people, such as:

  • Business analyst

A professional who analyzes a business or industry domain and documents its systems or processes.

For example: “The business analyst provided insights that significantly improved our operational efficiency.”

  • Business consultant

An expert who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area of business.

For example: “We hired a business consultant to help streamline our workflow.”

  • Business owner

The individual who owns and oversees a business enterprise.

For example: “As a business owner, she makes all major decisions regarding her company’s direction.”

  • Business leader

A person at the helm of a business organization who guides and influences the direction of the company.

For example: “He’s a respected business leader known for his innovative strategies.”

  • Business coach

A professional who provides guidance, support, advice, and accountability to help individuals improve their business performance.

For example: “Hiring a business coach helped me turn my struggling startup into a profitable venture.”

  • Business agent

A representative who manages the business affairs of an organization, such as a union or corporate entity.

For example: “The business agent negotiated better wages for the union members.”

Video – What is a business?

This interesting video, from our sister channel in YouTube – Marketing Business Network, explains what the word ‘Business’ means using simple and easy-to-understand language and examples.