1. The activity of buying and selling commodities, products, or services: new systems now being used in business.
2. The amount or volume of this activity: Business was off all day.
a. The variety of this activity in which a person is engaged: the wholesale food business.
b. A specific occupation or pursuit: the best designer in the business.
4. A commercial enterprise or establishment: bought his uncle's construction business.
5. Commercial dealings; patronage: took her business to a trustworthy salesperson.
a. One's rightful or proper concern or interest: "The business of America is business" (Calvin Coolidge).
b. Something involving one personally: It's none of my business.
7. Serious work or endeavor: got right down to business.
8. An affair or matter: "We will proceed no further in this business" (Shakespeare).
9. An incidental action performed by an actor on the stage to fill a pause between lines or to provide interesting detail.
10. Informal Strong verbal criticism; scolding: gave me the business for being late.
11. Informal Urination or defecation: The dog did its business on the lawn.
12. Obsolete The condition of being busy.
[Middle English businesse, from bisi, busy; see BUSY.]
Synonyms: business, industry, commerce, trade, traffic
These nouns apply to forms of activity that have the objective of supplying products or services for a fee. Business pertains broadly to commercial, financial, and industrial activity, and more narrowly to specific fields or firms engaging in this activity: a company that does business over the internet; went into the software consulting business; owns a dry-cleaning business. Industry entails the production and manufacture of goods or commodities, especially on a large scale: the computer industry. Commerce and trade refer to the exchange and distribution of goods or commodities: laws regulating interstate commerce; involved in the domestic fur trade. Traffic pertains in particular to businesses engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers: renovated the docks to attract shipping traffic. The word may also suggest illegal trade: discovered a brisk traffic in stolen goods.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.