War is terrible: The final chapter. 5 business phrases which come from the army

So guys here is the final part of my ‘War is terrible’ series of posts.  This week I have the 5 most important business idioms which have their origins in the army! Enjoy!

Click here for part 1 and part 2.

1. Take the flak for something

Very interesting phrase here, the word flak on its own means anti aircraft fire. So in the army, to take the flak means to receive anti-aircraft fire.

In business English, the phrase to take the flak means to take heavy criticism for something.

‘The managing director took the flak for falling profits’

The phrase take most of the flak for / take some of the flak for is also very common:

‘The project manager took most of the flak for the project failing to meet the deadline, but I also think the rest of the team should take some of the flak as well for their inefficiency,’

2. Be given your marching orders

In the military, to be given your marching orders means to be given instructions about a certain march.

In business English, to be given your marching orders means simply to be fired because you have done something wrong.

‘The football manager was given his marching orders after the team lost 5 games in a row.’

‘If he does it again he’ll be given his marching orders.’

3. Close ranks

If your army closes ranks, it means that they move closer together in military formation as a tactic for battle.

In business, then it can mean to publicly show support for other members of your team or your group.

‘If we want to beat the competition we should close ranks and give each other support.’

‘Our team leader has taken a lot of flak recently, we should close ranks with him and show that we believe in his ideas.’

4. To be caught off guard

Literally, if a guard is ‘off guard’ it means that they have lost concentration.  If they are caught off guard, then, it means that they are taken by surprise by something because they were not concentrating.

Similarly, in business or general English this means to be completely taken by surprise by something unexpected.

‘I was caught off guard in the negotiation when they offered such a low price.’

‘The company was caught off guard by the aggressive marketing campaign of its rival.’

‘Many companies were caught off guard when the financial crisis struck in 2008.’

5. Fight an uphill battle

As you can see, the literary meaning here is fairly clear.  If you are fighting a battle on a hill, it is a lot more difficult to fight uphill than to fight downhill.

This phrase, like all the other phrases here, is very common in both business and general English.  It means that you are trying to do something which is very difficult, usually due to people or circumstances.

There are 2 useful phrases here:

To fight an uphill battle with something

‘We’re fighting an uphill battle with this low budget we have been given.’

To fight an uphill battle to do something

‘We are fighting an uphill battle to improve morale here with so many redundancies.’

If you would like to have any any further example sentences with these words, feel free to visit my website or comment below! 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!


photo face thumbnail

David Cox

Founder of

Did you enjoy this post? Follow me!

If you want more help with English, there is now one space remaining for advanced private Skype lessons with me. For more info, or a FREE TRIAL LESSON, fill in the form or email me at!

Enter your details to arrange a free demo lesson with me! I will send an email within 24 hours with more info

privacy We value your privacy and would never spam you