Weasel words are words and phrases that set out to set you down the wrong path. They divert and hijack meaning, on purpose, with purpose. The etymology of the term is from about 1900, and refers to weasels eating the contents of eggs whilst leaving the shell intact. The weasel is a carnivorous mammal, and the term includes the better-known ferret and mink. There are several excellent ways to suck the protein out of business terms:

  1. overuse the words
  2. give the words more gravitas they they deserve
  3. completely change the meaning of the words
  4. make the words antonyms of themselves
  5. make your definitions of the words policy.

For instance:


  • A term used to mask the real motivation of employees: salary and wages.


  • A way to explain how badly a firm is doing by showing that competitors are performing more poorly still.


  • Originally a government concept, but now widely used in business as a succinct way of saying: “That’s why we do the things we do around here”.


  • If policy is the strategy, then a program is a tactic in the implementation of that strategy; if strategy is the ‘why’, a program is the ‘what’.


  • Either a positive or negative characterisation of one’s own firm in the marketplace, depending on whether one is winning or losing.

Corporate Governance

  • A phrasal noun much discussed when companies fail; something to do with people who are meant to reign in out-of-control CEOs, except when those executives are doing well and not getting caught.

Business Ethics

  • An oxymoron describing all manner of good and bad things as good and bad, but not necessarily in that order.

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