And another 20 business terms for non-native English speakers – PART 6

Hi everyone and welcome to Part Six of this series on business terms in English, and what they mean – in plain English!

(For direct links to the other articles in the series, scroll down to the bottom of this one.)

And another 20 business terms for non-native English speakers

American business terms are widely used in all the English language markets.

In Part 6, we look at 20 business terms used especially in the USA:

1. Angels: a nice term which usually is used to describe individuals and organisations with a lot of money, who look at new/renewed business proposals and decide whether or not to invest some of their money in those proposals.

2. Arbitrage: something big businesses hope to achieve. Basically it means being able to buy an asset and sell it immediately on at a higher price. Usually done when there are strong price differences between buying or selling, and only work out well once in a while.

3. Baby Boomers: the generation of people born towards the end of and shortly after World War Two (up to 1960), when their parents had recovered from the fear of war time so thought it was safe to bring more children into the western world. These “Baby Boomers” now are getting old, but still have a lot of influence on things like investments, pensions, etc.    

4. BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals): no doubt pronounced, as an acronym, as “bee-hags!” This is a term used to describe a goal or objective in business that is very ambitious and will make the business concerned really stretch itself, but is a goal that will inspire everyone to work hard to achieve it.

5. Cannibalization: based on the concept of cannibals who supposedly eat other humans to survive.

In business, “cannibalization” is what happens when a new product, service or even an upgrade, has been put together using parts/ideas from an older product or service the company offered.

6. Deep pockets: as you can imagine, this refers to people or organisations who have plenty of money (so they need “deep pockets” to carry it in) to invest in activities than other organisations do. These individuals and organisations are usually free to do whatever they want in investment terms. But at the same time they may be more likely to take the blame – and the financial loss – if they invest in something that doesn’t work out.

7. Empowerment: simply a word that means giving or having the power to make decisions, even if it’s only at a lower level. In business today – especially in the western markets – empowerment is taken very seriously. To what extent it actually works in business practice is debatable. However it is a very important term for people who work in HR / personnel, and for the people helped by those services…

8. Generation X, Y, etc: marketers and economics people’s way of describing people born into recent, different generations. “Generation X” people were born between 1965 and 1976, and now are a marketplace for businesses selling to recently retired – or soon to be retired – people in the western world. “Generation Y” (also called Millennials, people were born between 1983 and 2007. They, of course, are much more technology-savvy … but also are not impressed by the latest technological toy, Instead, they want and need good, honest answers.

9. In the red / black: these terms come from the time when a company’s accounts were all done by hand. Putting it simply, this meant that the numbers written in red were about money being lost, and numbers written in black related to positive money. Mostly now these terms are not used, but in some accounting software they still are.

10. Kaizen: this is the Japanese word for “improvement.”

“Kaizen” is a way of working in a business so that everyone knows what’s going on, and shares an equal responsibility to make ongoing improvements to their work, service, products, etc.

For more information about the Kaizen Institute and the method, click here.

11.Kickback: another word for bribe! A kickback is an unofficial (and often illegal) payment of money to someone who can influence your business success, to make sure that they do it. 

12. Lean manufacturing: a way of making products with as few add-ons as possible, so the company focuses on making the original item to as high a quality standard as possible. This process is also supposed to increase the company’s profits.

13. Mezzanine financing: the word “mezzanine” originally means an extra floor that’s built halfway up a very tall space, or in industry, halfway up a warehouse or other big building. Often it looks like a very large balcony. Mezzanine finance is an extra layer of money that is used in addition to the original investment, to help a business to grow more quickly, to pay for a new project, etc.

14. Milking: this term comes from “milking” a cow! On a farm, this process is how you get as much milk as possible from your cow. In business it means to get as much money, favours, publicity, etc., from a person, company or even an occasion like a public holiday or a news story.

15. NDA : the initials stand for Non Disclosure Agreement. This is a legal document that some companies make their employees and/or suppliers/contractors sign.

Anyone signing an NDA may not share information or trade secrets with anyone outside the company concerned.

The NDA usually lasts for a given number of years, often for much longer than the work relationship does.

16. Netiquette: this word has been put together in recent years by combining internet and etiquette. With “etiquette” meaning the proper way to behave, “netiquette” is the proper way to behave when you’re using the internet – especially when communicating with other people on social media, discussion forums, etc.

17. Offshoring: this comes from the words “off” and “shore,” and means to move a part of a company’s business to another country, so “off” its “shore” or border, which of courses does not necessarily have to be the sea shore. A common example of offshoring is when a company in, say, the UK, moves its telephone call centre to India, the Philippines, etc. because wages and salaries are lower in those countries, so cutting the costs.

18. Remanufacturing: when an older product has become worn out or out of date, often it can be rebuilt so that it’s almost as good as new again. Usually the process is more complex than a simple repair, which is why the term “remanufacturing” has become the right way to describe what is done. An example of this would be the cartridges we use in our computer printers: remanufactured ones are usually of good quality and cost less than new ones.

19. Satisficing: to “satisfice” means to make do with a lower standard of success, quality, efficiency, etc. This can be due to a number of business reasons.  

20. Stakeholders: a “stake” is usually a long stick which people stick into the ground, to show where the boundaries of their land are.

It’s from this process that the use of the word “stake” has come to mean ownership – you “stake out” your piece of land.

In business, “stakeholders” are any individual or group that has an interest in that business’s success. These groups can include not only employees, but also contractors, suppliers, share/stock holders, landlords, etc.

Other ways to help you write better for business in English

If you’re not a native English speaker but want to work and write better in English, this is the series for you. It will help you understand all these English idioms and jargon that can be so confusing and annoying for non-native speakers.

To read Part 1, click here

To read Part 2, click here

To read Part 3, click here

To read Part 4, click here

To read Part 5, click here

To read Part 7, click here

To read Part 8, click here

There is much more business writing help ready for you here on HTWB

And just take a look at the useful resources you can find here…even if your business English isn’t that good – yet!

Questions? Drop Suze a note on