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An organization of individuals conducting a commercial or industrial enterprise. A corporation, partnership, association, or joint stock company.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. any formal business entity for profit which may be a corporation, a partnership, association or individual proprietorship. Often people think the term "company" means the business is incorporated, but that is not true. In fact, a corporation usually must use some term in its name such as "corporation," "incorporated," "corp." or "inc." to show it is a corporation. (See: business)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


an association of persons formed for the purpose of some business or undertaking, which has a legal personality separate from that of its members. A company may be formed by charter, by special Act of Parliament or by registration under the Companies Acts. The liability of members is usually (but not always) limited by the charter, Act of Parliament or memorandum of association. A company may be a public limited company (PLC or plc), in which event its shares may be transferred freely among, and owned by, members of the public. All limited liability companies that are not public limited companies are private companies, denoted by the term Ltd. While companies are owned by their members (i.e. shareholders), they are managed by a board of directors. Historically, the duties owed by the board are fiduciary in nature and owed to the company rather than the shareholders. Companies are the major instrument for economic and financial growth and development in the Western world. A limited company encourages trade to the extent that in the event of insolvency the owners are liable only to the extent of their unpaid share capital. The limited company is a legal person in its own right and is sued in place of the owners or directors.

A company may be limited by shares or, in the case of a private company, by guarantee. Since the Companies Act 1980, it is no longer possible to create a company limited by guarantee and having a share capital in the UK. A company limited by guarantee is a company that has the liability of its members limited by the memorandum of association to such an amount as the members may undertake to contribute to the assets of the company upon its being wound up. A company limited by shares is a company having the liability of its members limited by the memorandum of association to the amount, if any, unpaid on the shares respectively held by them.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

COMPANY. An association of a number of individuals for the purpose of carrying on some legitimate business.
     2. This term is not synonymous with partnership, though every such unincorporated compass is a partnership.
     3. Usage has reserved this term to associations whose members are in greater number, their capital more considerable, and their enterprises greater, either on account of their risk or importance.
     4. When these companies are authorized by the government, they are known by the name of corporations. (q.v.)
     5. Sometimes the word is used to represent those members of a partnership whose names do not appear in the name of the firm; as, A.B & Company. Vide, 12 Toull. n, 97; Mortimer on Commerce, 128. Vide Club; Corporation; Firm; Parties to actions; Partnership.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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