A company, abbreviated as co., is a
legal entity representing an association of people, whether
legal or a mixture of both, with a specific objective. Company members share a common purpose and unite to achieve specific, declared goals. Companies take various forms, such as:
A company can be created as a legal person so that the company itself has
limited liability as members perform or fail to discharge their duty according to the publicly declared
incorporation, or published policy. When a company closes, it may need to be
liquidated to avoid further legal obligations.
Companies may associate and collectively register themselves as new companies; the resulting entities are often known as
The English word, company, has its origins in the
Old French term compagnie (first recorded in 1150), meaning a "society, friendship, intimacy; body of soldiers", which came from the
Late Latin word companio ("one who eats bread with you"), first attested in the
Salic law (
c. AD 500) as a
calque of the
Germanic expression gahlaibo (literally, "with bread"), related to
Old High Germangaleipo ("companion") and to
Semantics and usage
By 1303, the word company referred to
trade guilds. Usage of the term company to mean "business association" was first recorded in 1553,
and the abbreviation "co." dates from 1769.
company limited by guarantee (CLG): Commonly used where companies are formed for non-commercial purposes, such as clubs or charities. The members guarantee the payment of certain (usually nominal) amounts if the company goes into
insolvent liquidation, but otherwise, they have no economic rights in relation to the company. This type of company is common in
England. A company limited by guarantee may be with or without having
A company limited by guarantee with a share capital: A hybrid entity, usually used where the company is formed for non-commercial purposes, but the activities of the company are partly funded by investors who expect a return. This type of company may no longer be formed in the UK, although provisions still exist in law for them to exist.
limited liability company: "A company—statutorily authorized in certain states—that is characterized by limited liability, management by members or managers, and limitations on ownership transfer", i.e., L.L.C. LLC structure has been called "hybrid" in that it "combines the characteristics of a corporation and of a partnership or
sole proprietorship". Like a corporation, it has limited liability for members of the company, and like a partnership it has "flow-through taxation to the members" and must be "dissolved upon the death or bankruptcy of a member".
unlimited company with or without a share capital: A hybrid entity, a company where the liability of members or shareholders for the debts (if any) of the company are not limited. In this case, the doctrine of a veil of incorporation does not apply.
Less common types of companies are:
Companies formed by letters patent: Most corporations by letters patent are
corporations sole and not companies as the term is commonly understood today.
Royal charter corporations: In middle-ages Europe, before the passing of modern companies legislation, these were the only types of companies. Now they are relatively rare, except for very old companies that still survive (particularly many British banks), or modern societies that fulfill a quasi-regulatory function (for example, the
Bank of England is a corporation formed by a modern charter).
Statutory companies: Relatively rare today, certain companies have been formed by a private statute passed in the relevant jurisdiction.
When "Ltd" is placed after the company's name, it signifies a limited company, and "PLC" (
public limited company) indicates that its shares are widely held.
However, there are many sub-categories of company types that can be formed in various jurisdictions in the world.
Companies are also sometimes distinguished for legal and regulatory purposes between public companies and private companies. Public companies are companies whose shares can be publicly traded, often (although not always) on a
stock exchange which imposes
Listing Rules as to the issued shares, the trading of shares and future issue of shares to help bolster the reputation of the exchange or particular market of an exchange. Private companies do not have publicly traded shares, and often contain restrictions on transfers of shares. In some jurisdictions, private companies have maximum numbers of shareholders.
parent company is a company that owns enough voting stock in another firm to control management and operations by influencing or electing its board of directors; the second company being deemed a subsidiary of the parent company. The definition of a parent company differs by jurisdiction, with the definition normally being defined by way of laws dealing with companies in that jurisdiction.
Compare a definition of a corporation: "Perhaps the best definition of a corporation was given by Chief Justice John Marshall in a famous Supreme Court decision in 1819. A corporation, he said, 'is an artificial person, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of the law.' In other words, a corporation [...] is an artificial person, created by law, with most of the legal rights of a real person."
Pride, William M.; Hughes, Robert J.; Kapoor, Jack R. (1985). "4: Choosing a form of business ownership".
Business. CengageNOW Series (10 ed.). Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning (published 2009). p. 116.
ISBN9780324829556. Retrieved April 20, 2019.
"company". Online Etymology Dictionary. - 'From late 14c. as "a number of persons united to perform or carry out anything jointly," which developed a commercial sense of "business association" by 1550s, the word having been used in reference to trade guilds from late 14c.'
"co". Online Etymology Dictionary. - 'by 1670's as an abbreviation of company in the business sense, indicating the partners in the firm whose names do not appear in its name. Hence and co. to indicate "the rest" of any group (1757)'.
^Garner, Bryan A., ed. (1891). "company".
Black's Law Dictionary. Black's Law, 9th Edition. Vol. 1 (9 ed.). St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing, Inc (published 2009). p. 318.
ISBN9780314199492. Retrieved April 20, 2019. 2. A corporation, partnership, association, joint-stock company, trust, fund, or organized group of persons, whether incorporated or not, and (in an official capacity) any receiver, trustee in bankruptcy, or similar official, or liquidating
agent, for any of the foregoing. Investment Company Act 2(a)(8)(15 USCA 80a-2(a)(8)).
abcBlack's Law and lee Dictionary. Second Pocket Edition. Bryan A. Garner, editor. West. 2001.