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Business English Idiom: Olive Branch

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Take a look at this sentence which appears on businessweek's website report on an official visit by a US politician to China:

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s visit to Beijing is a “very encouraging” development that offers an “olive branch” to China ahead of a series of meetings."

So what's an olive branch and what does the expression mean?

An olive branch is, as you can guess, a branch from an olive tree. It is not clear why, but since ancient history the olive branch is a symbol of peace and goodwill. The olive branches as signs of peace appear in the the Bible as well as myths from ancient Greece and Rome. Even the official seal of the Unites States shows an eagle holding an olive branch in its right talon.

Therefore when we hold out an olive branch or offer an olive branch, we are saying something in order to show that we want to end a disagreement with someone.

"She held out an olive branch in the new round of business negotiations."
"By reducing military spending the government is offering an olive branch to rival countries."

Is this idiom used in your language? Can you give us some more examples of its use?

Link: Education Idioms