Essential Business English Terms

Compact vocabulary of common business terms: Intermediate & advanced  level

Vocabulary is the number one task for language learners. This “Essential Business English Terms” glossary is appropriate for anyone who wants to expand their Business English vocabulary and is especially intended for non native speakers at an intermediate or higher level. This list is very far from exhaustive (= it is far from complete), but it can help you measure your vocabulary knowledge, and we hope, teach you some new key Business English terms.

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This compact glossary is divided into ten categories of essential business vocabulary. It starts with “entrepreneurship” and ends with “corporate ethics,” but there’s a lot in between! So… are you ready? Let’s dive into the wordy-world of Business English, exploring the essential terms that everyone in business needs to know.

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Entrepreneurship and Business Management: Essential Business English Terms

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Entrepreneurs are, perhaps, the rock stars of the business world. They start new companies. Many of these companies will fail, but some will prosper. Ever heard of Steve Jobs?;-) Tip: In American English, pronounce entrepreneurship as on-trə-prə-nər-ship.

1. Entrepreneur – An individual who starts and runs a business, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.

2. Stakeholder – Any person or group who has an interest in the success and operations of a business.

3. Risk tolerance – The level to which an entrepreneur or investor is willing to risk their money.

4. Startup business or startup company – a new company.

5. Angel investor – An angel investor provides initial money for startup businesses, usually in exchange for ownership equity in the company.

6. Seed money – The initial investment needed to start a new company.

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Finance and Investment Terms: Essential Vocabulary

This category covers a few of the common terms related to business finance and investments, which are essential for understanding the financial dynamics of a company.

1. Asset – Anything of value owned by a business, which can provide future economic benefits.

2. Liability – Financial obligations that a company owes to others, like loans and mortgages.

3. Equity – The value of an owner’s shares within a company, representing their stake.

4. Capital  – Wealth in the form of money or assets, used or invested in a business by its owners.

5. P&L – Profit and loss.

6. ROI – Return on investment.

7. Balance sheet – a statement of the assets, liabilities, and capital of a business or other organisation. It is a “snapshot,” detailing the balance of income and expenditure (=spending) over a given period of time.

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Marketing and Sales Vocabulary: Top Terms

The field of marketing and sales is full of specialised terminology that helps professionals strategize and communicate effectively.

1. Brand – Simply stated, a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from others. David Ogilvy said that a brand is “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” In modern usage, “brand” often refers to the totality of how people think and feel about a company and its products or services.

2. Market Research – The process of gathering, analysing, and interpreting information about a market.

3. Conversion Rate – The percentage of visitors who take a desired action, crucial in sales and marketing.

4. B2B (Business-to-Business) – Transactions conducted between companies, rather than between a company and individual consumers.

5. B2C (Business-to-Consumer) – Transactions conducted between companies and consumers, rather than between 2 companies.

6. Cold calling – Calling potential clients with whom there is no previous relationship.

7. Prospects and leads – A prospect is stronger than a lead, but most prospects start as leads. A prospect is a “qualified lead” with whom the seller has had contact. The prospect is an engaged lead, though still not yet a “sale.”

8. CRM – Customer relationship management: a platform such as Hubspot or SalesForce.

Human Resources & Employment: Essential Business English Terms

Understanding human resources and employment terms is key for those involved in or interested in the management of workplace environments and employees. It’s also helpful for job seekers, especially as it relates to recruitment.

1. Recruitment – The process of finding, screening, and selecting qualified people for a job at an organisation.

2. Onboarding – The process of integrating a new employee into the organisation and its culture.

3. Turnover – The rate at which employees leave a workforce and are replaced. But watch out!  The word turnover can also refer to gross income or sales over a particular period. You will know the meaning by the context in which the word is used.

4. Workforce Planning – The process of analysing, forecasting, and planning workforce supply and demand.

5. Outsourcing- The practice of having certain job functions done outside a company instead of having an in-house department handle them.

6. Background check – A method for gathering information about a job candidate, including the following “proofs”: Identity proof, proof of past employment, address proof and educational qualifications proof, among others.

7. Human capital – Employees.

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International Trade and Globalization: Business English Terms

For international business professionals, these are a few of the terms necessary for talking about global trade dynamics.

1. Globalisation – The process of interaction and integration among people, companies, and governments worldwide.

2. Export – Goods or services produced in one country and sold to buyers in another.

3. Import – Bringing goods or services into a country from abroad for sale.

4. Trade barrier – A government-imposed restraint on the flow of international goods or services.

5. Customs – The part of the government that enforces trade regulations and collects tariffs.

6. Tariff – A tariff is a customs duty or tax levied on imports of merchandise goods. Most of the time a tariff is a percentage of value or a specific tariff (e.g. $100 per ton). 

7. Free trade – A policy that allows goods and services to be traded without restrictions or tariffs.

Technology and Digital: Business English Terms

With the rise of digital businesses, knowledge of technology-related terms is essential. Digital language is not just for the geeks anymore ;-).

1. E-commerce – The buying and selling of goods or services using the internet.

2. Big Data – Extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns and trends.

3. Cloud Computing – The practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data.

4. Cybersecurity – Measures taken to protect a computer or computer system against unauthorised access or attack.

5. Digital marketplace – An online store where customers can purchase digital products, such as software as a service (SaaS), infrastructure as a service (IaaS), and hardware as a service (HaaS), as well as many other types of digital offerings.

6. Multi vendor marketplace – A large-scale e-commerce store where multiple vendors can promote and sell their goods and services. Companies like Amazon, and in the Netherlands,, are e-commerce platforms.

Legal and compliance terms are central in ensuring that businesses operate within the boundaries of law and corporate governance.

1. Compliance – Adherence (=acting in accordance with) to laws, regulations, policies, and ethical standards in business operations.

2. Intellectual Property (IP) – Legal rights arising from the intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary, or artistic fields.

3. Litigation – The process of taking a dispute to a court.

4. Due Diligence – An investigation or audit of a potential investment or product to confirm all facts and financial information.

5. Code of Ethics – A document that conveys organisational values, a commitment to standards, and a set of ideals. In practice, used interchangeably with Code of Conduct.

6. Corporate attorney – a lawyer (=attorney) who is specialised in the area of the law related to corporations.

7. Lawsuit – A legal action in a court of law which deals with a dispute between two people or two organisations. Lawsuits often result in financial settlements.

Project Management and Operational Terms

Effective project management and understanding operational terms are key to ensuring business projects and processes run smoothly.

1. Milestone – A significant point or event in a project, program, or portfolio.

2. Agile – A method of project management used for software development, emphasising incremental delivery.

3. Supply Chain – The entire system of producing and delivering a product or service, from the supplier of raw materials to the end consumer.

4. Inventory Management – The supervision of non-capitalized assets, or inventory, and stock items.

5. COO – Chief Operating Officer.

6. Deliverables – The product or products of what you expect to have at the end of your project. Some examples of deliverables include a new product, a sales deck, or an increase in traffic.

Communication and Networking Terms

Effective communication and networking are essential for business success, and these terms are foundational.

1. Elevator Pitch – A brief, persuasive speech used to spark interest in what your organisation does.

2. Stakeholder Engagement – The process of involving individuals who may be affected by the decisions made by an organisation.

3. Feedback – Input about employee performance. This can be quite formal and extensive (360 degree feedback) or just a few brief, informal comments from a superior.

4. Networking – Interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional contacts.

5. Non verbal communication – This term often refers to body language and includes any communication that is not word dependent.

6. Upward communication – Upward communication refers to the flow of information from employees or lower-level colleagues to their superiors or higher-level management. “Managing up” means managing your superiors.

7. Brainstorming – An open and lively exchange & collection of ideas, suggestions and input with little judgement or evaluation.

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Corporate Ethics and Social Responsibility Terms

Understanding corporate ethics and social responsibility is key for businesses aiming to operate sustainably and ethically.

1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – A business model in which companies are responsible for the societal impacts of their activities.

2. Ethical Sourcing – The process of ensuring the products being sourced are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way. (Ethics are the moral principles that guide a person or  a company’s conduct.)

3. Transparency – The practice of openly sharing information related to company operations, decisions, and performance. (Transparency is related to the adjective transparent or “see through.”)

4. Sustainability – Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. (related to the verb “sustain.”)

5. Whistleblower – A person who (safely and privately) reports misconduct or other problems in a company. The whistleblower’s role is to report the issue to the appropriate person (always someone in authority). They do not investigate or determine the appropriate actions that may follow.

6. Circular economy – The circular economy model of production and consumption can include sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, products are used as long as possible, and waste is reduced.

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This glossary of essential business English terms provides a resource for anyone who wants to begin enhancing their business vocabulary. As the world of business continues to evolve, staying informed with key Business English terms (both old ones and new, trending ones) will be crucial in navigating the global business landscape. Everyday new words and terms come into common usage, and we all have to keep up! This post provides just an inkling (=a little bit) of the totality of general terms for Business English, not to mention the plethora (=a lot of) specialist terms that every sector makes use of.

We hope this article helped you check your current knowledge of Business English terms as well as helping you learn some new terms. And of course, if this article inspired you to work on your English vocabulary, we’re here to help.

Contact The English Center today.

Brenda de Jong-Pauley, MA, for The English Center

Wordcount: about 2000

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