Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun, often attributive busi·ness \ˈbiz-nəs, -nəz, Southern also ˈbid-\

Simple Definition of business

  • : the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for money

  • : work that is part of a job

  • : the amount of activity that is done by a store, company, factory, etc.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of business

  1. 1 archaic :  purposeful activity :  busyness

  2. 2 a :  role, function <how the human mind went about its business of learning — H. A. Overstreet> b :  an immediate task or objective :  mission <what is your business here> c :  a particular field of endeavor <the best in the business>

  3. 3 a :  a usually commercial or mercantile activity engaged in as a means of livelihood :  trade, line <in the restaurant business> b :  a commercial or sometimes an industrial enterprise; also :  such enterprises <the business district> c :  dealings or transactions especially of an economic nature :  patronage <took their business elsewhere>

  4. 4 :  affair, matter <the whole business got out of hand> <business as usual>

  5. 5 :  creation, concoction

  6. 6 :  movement or action (as lighting a cigarette) by an actor intended especially to establish atmosphere, reveal character, or explain a situation —called also stage business

  7. 7 a :  personal concern <none of your business> b :  right <you have no business speaking to me that way>

  8. 8 a :  serious activity requiring time and effort and usually the avoidance of distractions <got down to business> b :  maximum effort

  9. 9 a :  a damaging assault b :  rebuke, tongue-lashing c :  double cross

  10. 10 :  a bowel movement —used especially of pets

Examples of business in a sentence

  1. Forever Odd is a direct sequel to 2003's Odd Thomas, the book in which we were introduced to the title character, a young man who can see the dead. They can't talk to him, but they can nudge him in the direction they want, which is usually to help them tidy up some unfinished business from when they were alive. —Charles De Lint, Fantasy & Science Fiction, May 2006

  2. The Sun may never set, but air temperatures can plummet to -4 degrees Fahrenheit, and blinding snowstorms appear without warning. Sunbathing here can be risky business: even huddled in our parkas and boots, the members of our expedition live under the constant threat of frostbite and hypothermia. —Terrie M. Williams, Natural History, October 2003

  3. Such high attrition means that most of the dot-coms here today will be gone tomorrow. The business environment is already harsh, and competition is growing. —Ann Thayer, Chemical & Engineering News, 5 June 2000

  4. Lancaster and Columbia have plenty of history apart from the Civil War, of course. For example, Lancaster was home to F.W. Woolworth's first successful 5&10 and Milton S. Hershey's first successful candy business. —Lancaster New Era, 2 July 1996

  5. The store has lost a significant amount of business since the factory closed.

  6. She works in the publishing business.

  7. David has decided to go into business with his brother.

  8. Their publishing company is the best in the business.

  9. I have to go to New York City on business next week.

  10. They advertised to increase business.

  11. He has the skills necessary to run a business.

  12. The town is trying to attract new businesses.

  13. Do we have any other business we need to discuss?

  14. No, I didn't ask him what he wanted the car for. That's his business.

Origin of business

Middle English bisynesse, from bisy busy + -nesse -ness

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of business

business, commerce, trade, industry, traffic mean activity concerned with the supplying and distribution of commodities. business may be an inclusive term but specifically designates the activities of those engaged in the purchase or sale of commodities or in related financial transactions. commerce and trade imply the exchange and transportation of commodities. industry applies to the producing of commodities, especially by manufacturing or processing, usually on a large scale. traffic applies to the operation and functioning of public carriers of goods and persons.

synonyms see in addition work

BUSINESS Defined for Kids


noun busi·ness \ˈbiz-nəs\

Definition of business for Students

  1. 1 :  the activity of making, buying, and selling goods or services <We're open for business.>

  2. 2 :  a commercial enterprise <She's starting a new business.>

  3. 3 :  the normal activity of a person or group <Learning is the business of a student.>

  4. 4 :  personal concerns <It's none of your business.>

  5. 5 :  1matter 1 <Cleaning up the mess was an unpleasant business.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up business? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


marked by grandiloquent style

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of these is a synonym of nonplus?

perplex reduce soothe disapprove
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.