Business Dictionary

This glossary of business terms and definitions includes the main terminology used in business, plus many more unusual, interesting and amusing words and expressions found in business and management, and the wider world of work and modern life.

The definitions are designed to be quick, easy and enjoyable to read. It’s not meant to be an encyclopedia.

Please send your suggestions for additional terms, and any corrections.

If you can’t find a term try the search box at the top of the page.

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Some of these terms can have different meanings in situations outside of business and management, and some can even have different meanings in different areas of business. Generally this glossary lists the most common uses and meanings.

If you hear or read a term which does not make sense according to the definition in this dictionary, check elsewhere or ask the person what he/she meant. People do not always use terminology correctly, which means it’s very important to seek clarification when you hear a strange term. Seeking clarification can be helpful for others too who might not be so bold as to ask.

Please note that UK-English spellings for words such as colour, behaviour are different to US-English spellings (color, behavior). UK-English spellings of many words ending in ‘ise’, such as organise, realise, etc., may also appear on this page (compared to US-English ‘ize’). Please adapt the materials for your own situation accordingly.

A B C D E F G H I J K L
M N O P Q R S T U V W XYZ

1-10

1.4142

    The diagonal (approximate, to four decimal places) of a 1 x 1 square, also known as Pythagoras’s Constant, and therefore also the ratio (1:1.4142) for calculating the diagonal side of a right-angled triangle in which the two short sides are of equal length.

1.6180

    The Golden Number (to four decimal places). Also known as the Golden Section, Divine Proportion, and phi the twenty-first letter of the Greek alphabet. Also loosely referred to as Golden Ratio (1:1.618). Phi is used intentionally or instinctively in many different areas of design, for example architecture, music, and art. Phi is also an easy ‘secret’ to achieving aesthetically pleasing positioning and proportions. The Golden Ratio is found in diverse designs such as Stradivarius violins, the Pyramids, Notre Dame Cathedral, and in nature, for example the human face.

5S

    An organizational methodology originating in Japan that, when implemented, reduces the waste of resources and space while increasing operational efficiency. The 5S elements, translated into English, are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain and are applied in some companies’ efforts to achieve "lean manufacturing."

13

    The most superstitious number, 13 affects business in surprising ways through absenteeism, cancellations, and design. Western airlines, for example, tend not to have seats and rows numbered 13. Friday 13th is a particularly superstitious date. Friday and the number 13 derive their superstitious reputations mostly from Christian beliefs and Norse folklore.

24-Carat/Karat

    The purest form of gold (karat is US-English spelling, too soft for jewellery, hence gold jewellery is made of 22-carat, 18-carat, or 9-carat gold, etc., in which other metals such as copper are mixed. Carat is a measure of purity in which 24 parts equate (virtually) to 100% gold. 18-carat is therefore 75% gold. Less than 10-carat gold is generally not sold as gold. The carat measure of diamonds is different, for which carat is a measure of weight
    (1 carat = 200mg).

24-hour Society

    Refers to a way of life available to many in the modern world in which people can work socialize, shop, bank, etc., 24 hours a day. The phenomenon has caused significant new thinking in business, management, marketing, etc., and continues to do so.

24/7

    Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

3.14159

    Pi, normally represented by the Greek letter pi (P) symbol p. Pi is typically used for calculating the area (p x radius squared) or circumference (p x diameter) of a circle. Pi has an infinite number of decimal places, and fascinates mathematicians in calculating pi itself, and memory experts too in memorizing as much of it as possible.

38 Ways of Persuasion

    The classic semi-serious guide to winning arguments featuring in The Art of Always Being Right, by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860).

360 Degree Thinking

    A term used for considering all options in business, etc., as opposed to having narrow field vision.

360 Degree Feedback

    An appraisal method typically entailing feedback about a manager given by fellow workers.

4/4

    Four beats to the bar, the most common rhythm in music.

64,000 dollar/pound question

    The key or crucial question in a particular issue, deriving from an old US radio quiz game show called Take It Or Leave It, in which $64 was the top prize (it was an old show..). The show first aired in 1940 (ending in 1947), in which up to seven progressively more difficult questions were asked of each contestant, beginning with a one dollar prize, doubling each time a question was successfully answered and the option to ‘leave it’ rather than ‘take it’ (the prize money) was preferred. Giving a wrong answer ended the game and the potential prize money was lost. During the 1940s the expression “sixty-four dollar question” became popular in the US referring to a very challenging question. The show relaunched on radio in 1950 as "The $64 Question" and ran for two more years. Reflecting inflation, and more notably the growing power of commercial TV, the show’s next relaunch was in 1955 as "The $64,000 Question". The expression adapted accordingly and has endured and spread, despite the short life of the new 1955 TV show and a couple of subsequent relaunch attempts and name variations. More recently the expression is frequently adapted to refer to a sum of 64-million dollars or pounds, which is not wildly disproportionate with big money prizes in modern times. It is incredible to think that $64 dollars was once – within living memory – a big money game show prize.

72 Rule

    More commonly known as the Rule of 72, with variations 69 and 70, these are standard figures used by financial folk in calculating quickly the years required for an investment to double (or to halve) at a given interest rate. Typically 72 is divided by the compound interest rate to give the approximate years. 72 is more popular than 69 or 70 because it is quite reliable and easily divisible quickly by lots of different numbers.

80/20 Rule

    The theory that 20% of effort produces 80% of results, and very many similar effects; also known as Pareto Rule or Pareto Principle, after its originator.

86

    ‘Secret’ code used by restaurant and bar staff when refusing service or ejecting a customer from the premises, and more recently referring to a menu item not available, which is sometimes a lie to achieve the first meaning. The term has existed since the early 1900s and no-one knows the true derivation, although increasingly daft ones are suggested.