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English Idioms for Money & Business


When it comes to money and business, English idioms are commonplace.

For international students in the workplace, however, many of these English idioms are gibberish. What is a “dog-eat-dog” industry, for instance? Or a store that charges “an arm and a leg”?

Money — its lack, extravagance, necessity — is the root of most English idioms such as these. To “make a killing,” for example, is to pull in a large profit. To “make ends meet” is to do something for extra income: a part-time job, freelance work, a yard sale.

Dollar billIf you’re not making a killing, you may have to become a “penny pincher” or (worse) a “tightwad;” the former is a frugal person, the latter a stingy one. If your bankroll is fat enough, however, you can afford to live “high on the hog,” i.e in luxury.

Even people living high on the hog are likely to bemoan “highway robbery” once in a while; if you’ve ever bought something at inflated prices – a hundred dollar postcard, say – you’ve been a victim of highway robbery, according to the English idiom.

These kinds of cons are “a dime a dozen” (meaning common), so be on your guard. And bargains are often anything but; that cabbie who moonlights as a plastic surgeon might seem like a sweet deal, but remember: “you get what you pay for” (the English idiom warns that if you invest in unreliable services or products and they’ll inevitably disappoint).

When considering a dubious purchase, it’s probably best to “take a rain check,” that is, reserve the item for later pick-up. Impulse shopping is satisfying in the moment, but once you’re home and surrounded by “everything but the kitchen sink” (the English idiom meaning a lot of unnecessary stuff), you’re sure to feel a bit queasy.

After baseball, money is America’s national pastime: making it, spending it and, above all, talking about it. These English idioms offer a great introduction to American English, so use them freely.

In other words: “go for broke” (risk everything).

Want to learn some more English idioms? Read about idioms on college campuses, travel idioms, and American slang words!

*Note: A “dog-eat-dog” enterprise is one that’s competitive and aggressive. An “arm and a leg” is charging or paying a large sum of money.



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