General English


  • noun a system of carrying on a business


  • noun initiative or willingness to take risks or to take responsibility


  • noun a business, especially used in statistics and official reports


  • noun a system where businesses are developed privately rather than by the state

Origin & History of “enterprise”

Enterprise is the romance-language equivalent of the native English formation undertaking. It comes from the past participle of Old French entreprendre, a compound verb formed from entre ‘between’ and prendre ‘take’ (a word with many relatives in English, from comprehend to surprise). The original Old French version of the word was emprise (from vulgar Latin *imprendere ‘undertake’, in which the prefix was in- rather than inter-), and English actually borrowed this in the 13th century; it survived as an archaism into the 19th century. The underlying meaning of both versions is probably ‘taking something in or between one’s hands’ so as to do something about it.