War is terrible – 8 Business expressions which come from war

In Business English, there has always been a connection between business and war, and the the business world loves idiomatic expressions. Sit back and take a read!

1. bulletproof

If an object is bulletproof, it means that the object will not be damaged if it is hit by a bullet.  The most common examples include bulletproof glass, bulletproof vests etc.

In business or general English, if something is bulletproof it means that it is safe from any possible failure, because there are no weaknesses to it:

‘I think we have a fairly bulletproof strategy for the next quarter’

‘I think our scheduling and budget is fairly bulletproof’

2. bite the bullet 

This phrase means to accept  and continue through difficult circumstances:

‘Profits are very low at the moment, so we may have to bite the bullet and lose some staff’

‘The project is proving to be a lot more expensive than we had hoped, so I think we should just bite the bullet and increase the budget.’

3. dodge a bullet

The verb ‘to dodge’ means to very quickly move out of the way of something.  Anything flying through the air it is possible to dodge, for example a ball, a wasp flying towards you.  Dodge a bullet, therefore, literally means to quickly move out of the way of a bullet.

In business or general English, to dodge a bullet means to successfully avoid something negative happening to you.

‘The company that rejected me last month have just gone bankrupt, I think dodged a bullet!’

You can also use this expression followed by a verb with this structure

dodge a bullet + by + (not) + _____ing

‘I think we dodged a bullet by not taking on that project, the other team are having real difficulties with it.’

‘I think we dodged a bullet by not hiring extra staff, we didn’t realise we would be having these financial difficulties.’

4. take a bullet

Literally, to take a bullet for someone means to jump in front of someone when they are being shot, so that the bullet hits you and not them.

In business or general English, to take a bullet can mean to take the blame for something that somebody else has done wrong:

‘If somebody in the company makes a mistake, it is their boss who should take the bullet for them.’

It can also mean to put yourself in a difficult or uncomfortable situation to help somebody else:

‘When the project was behind schedule, we all had to take a bullet and work longer hours to catch up.’

5. big guns

In business, the big guns are the influential people or companies.

‘In the fast food industry, it is difficult to compete with the big guns like McDonalds or KFC.’

‘We need to bring in the big guns to persuade the other company to accept our offer’

6. stick to your guns

Literally, this means to keep standing with your gun.

For us, however, the most useful meaning is to maintain your offer, or your opinion, when it is in the face of some opposition:

‘In the negotiation, they will try to reduce the price they have to pay for the product.  Just stick to your guns and make them pay the full price.’

‘The boss may try to tell you that you are wrong, but stick to your guns and he will soon see that you are right’

7. with (all) guns blazing

To do something with all guns blazing means to do something with a lot of force or energy.  This is mainly used to talk about the way someone enters a room in an argument, negotiation, presentation etc.

‘There was an argument between me and my boss yesterday.  I was quite upset because he came into the office with all guns blazing, and said some horrible things about me’

‘Be calm when you go into the negotiation.  Don’t go in there with all guns blazing because it might scare them off’

It can also be used to describe the way that you start an argument, negotiation, presentation etc.

‘When you talk about the product, you need to start with all guns blazing to catch their enthusiasm immediately.’

8. jump the gun

This is a word with interesting origins, in fact it does not come from war at all.  It actually comes from sport!  In history, many sporting contests were started by somebody firing a gun.  This is sometimes seen today in marathons and various running events.  Literally, then, to jump the gun would mean to start running before the gun has been fired!

In business or general English, to jump the gun means to start something too early:

‘We need to plan this project properly, we could experience problems later on if we jump the gun.’

‘I was very nervous, so I think I jumped the gun by starting the presentation before everybody had arrived.’

 War is one of the main topics referred to in business idioms, check out part 2 here for the best business idioms which come from weapons.

If you would like to have any of these words explained further, or if you would like to see some more examples, feel free to email me at [email protected], or message me on Skype at live:fluencyspace! Also if you have any other questions about English I’m happy to answer your emails or I will write a post about it, keep the emails coming!  Check out more useful business vocabulary here!


 David Cox

 Fluency Space

 Make the world your fluency space. Business English for career and life success

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