What Does Business Before Pleasure Mean?

Business Before Pleasure Meaning

Definition: Work is more important than entertainment; finish work before having fun.

Origin of Business Before Pleasure

This proverb first appeared in the year 1767 in Thomas Hutchinson’s Diary and Letters. It took a slightly different form: pleasure should always give way to business.

Examples of Business Before Pleasure

Meaning of business before pleasureThe first dialogue shows a sister and her brother discussing their schedule for the day.

Luke: Hey! Mom and Dad are gone for the whole weekend. We should throw a party at their house!

Ella: A party would be fun, but they left this whole list of stuff we are supposed to do while they are gone.

Luke: I know. But there’s no reason we can’t do both. Let’s finish this list today, and throw the party on Saturday night!

Ella: Hm. I like your idea of business before pleasure. It will be hard to finish all this in just one day.

Luke: It will be busy but not impossible. We can do it if we both work hard.

Ella: Okay. Let’s try it!

pleasure before business definitionThe second example shows two friends arguing over the phone about what time to get together.

Ray: Hey. Come over here quick. The game is starting.

Jackie: I know. I wish I could come watch it with you. You know that’s my favorite team. But, unfortunately, I promised my boss I would finish this report first.

Ray: So what? Do the report later. How is he going to know?

Jackie: He might not know, but I believe in business before pleasure.

Ray: Fine. Come over when you’re done.

More Examples

A former U.S. poet laureate writes that business is important to him in the below excerpt. However, he thinks business and pleasure can go together.

  • An odd corollary is a promise I make myself (a promise to the places themselves, too) not to write a certain kind of touristic-literary poem about locales: No Verona poem, no Hawaiian snorkeling poem. Business before pleasure? Possibly so, but mainly: I like mixing them—while not mistaking one for the other. –Wall Street Journal

In this other example, an athlete focuses on his work before joining his girlfriend to relax.

  • …she sipped champagne and iced her knee. Woods was in no great hurry to join her after his round. Business before pleasure. He needed to re-gauge his putting stroke. Tiger was asked whether 70 on the first round was a lucky number for him, given his history. –New York Daily News


The phrase business before pleasure means that obligations take precedence over enjoyment.