Out Of Business – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Would you like to use a phrase that refers to the closure of a business – or implies that somethng else has shut down for good? 'Out of business' is a common saying in the English language that can be uesd to say just this. This post unpacks the meaning, origin, and most common use of the saying.


The phrase 'out of business' is a common saying in the English language, which can have either a literal or figurative meaning when it is used.

'Out of business' means that someone has ceased operations when the literal meaning of the phrase is used. 'Out of business' can also be used to mean that something has stopped, though it does not necessarily have to refer to business operations as figurative use.

Context of the phrase 'out of business' and what the speaker refers to when they say it can be implied or made clear by the rest of what the speaker has said.

The phrase can also be used in the negative form to say that something is 'not out of business' or to mean that it is open or in operation.

Sometimes the phrase is used as a serious literal saying, though it can also be used as figurative and sometimes sarcastic.

The phrase 'not open for business' can be used as a similar phrase with the same meaning.

The phrase is most common in English, though it is possible to translate it as a literal saying into some languages.

Example Usage

“When I got to the pizza place there was a sign that said OUT OF BUSINESS in the front. I guess they just sold too many pineapple pizzas to people and the rest of town stopped going there.”

“If you're going down to the woods tonight, you're in for a big surprise. The whole place has gone out of business due to logging, so you had better go somewhere else.”

“Out of business is the way most businesses tell you they're going to hold a clearance sale in a small town. Sometimes the sign has been there for about twenty years and the sale just never stops.”

“If someone in this town wants a cupcake, tell them I've gone out of business. I'm retired from the cupcake business on account of the weather.”


Most online language resources do not attribute an etymology or origin to the phrase 'out of business', and it's assumed that the phrase might have evolved simply as an opposite to the phrase 'in business' that was used to mean that a business is operational.

The phrase 'out of business' was in common, widespread use by the 1800s – and use of the phrase continued with the same meaning throughout the 21st century.

'Out of business' was first listed on the website Urban Dictionary from 2004, even though earlier use of the phrase is apparent.

Phrases Similar to Out of Business

  • Closed for business
  • Not open for business

Phrases Opposite to Out of Business

  • In business
  • Open for business

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Out of business
  • Going/gone out of business

Ways People May Say Out of Business Incorrectly

There are several ways in which someone can use the phrase 'out of business' in the wrong way, or misunderstand the meaning of the phrase when it is used.

'Out of businesses' would be the incorrect way to use the phrase, and would not render a valid expression.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Out of Business

The phrase 'out of business' can have a literal meaning to say that a business is not in operation, but the phrase can also be used as a figurative saying to mean that something has stopped.

Someone can say 'going out of business' or 'went out of business', or simply 'out of business' to imply the meaning of the saying.

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