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Choosing a company name - Limited company names

Choosing a company is a critical step in the development of your future business. Take some time to consider the points below before deciding on your company name.

(Abridged version of regulations. If in doubt call our Business Advisors)

Call us on 0800 328 74 94 and see if the company name you want is OK. Alternatively, fill in the form to your right and we will contact you with the results of our search.

Can I choose any name I want for my company?

Yes, but there are some exceptions:

  • If it is 'the same as' an existing name. A name that sounds the same as another may be accepted if spelt differently but may be considered as 'too like' another if an objection is lodged after the second company is incorporated.
  • If it is offensive.
  • If its use would be a criminal offence.
  • If it contains sensitive words and expressions prescribed by regulations or suggesting connection with government (see below).
  • The following words cannot be included anywhere within the company name;
    • ‘investment company with variable capital’
    • ‘open-ended investment company’
    • ‘limited liability partnership’
    • ‘SE’
  • The words ‘limited’, ‘unlimited’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘community interest company’ can only be used as a suffix and not anywhere else within the name.
  • Unless the company is a commonhold association, the words ‘commonhold association company’ cannot be at the end of the company name.
  • Unless the company is a community interest company, the company name cannot end with ‘community interest company’ or ‘community interest public limited company’.
  • Please feel free to call us for assistance and suggestions that will be accepted by Companies House.

What are 'Sensitive Words and Expressions'?

British, National, Great Britain, United Kingdom, England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland or Irish - if the words are used as a suffix, they are normally allowed. The initials 'GB' or 'UK' do not require approval.
European - will not be approved if they imply unjustifiable connection with EU.
International As prefix major activity must be overseas trading. As suffix, company activity must be in 2 or more overseas countries.
Association, Federation or Society
Authority, Board
or Council
Institute or Institution
Assurance, Assurer, Insurance, Insurer, Re-Assurance
etc, Benevolent, Foundation, Fund
Chamber of Commerce,
and/or Trade and/or Industry and/or Training and Enterprise Charter or Chartered Charity
or Chemistry
Co-operative Friendly Society
or Industrial and Provident Society Group
- For holding company defined under section 736 of the Companies Act 1985.
Patent or Patentee
Post Office
or Registered
- the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire is consulted.
Stock exchange - normally refused unless there are special circumstances.
Trade Union - normally refused unless they conform to trade union legislation.
Trust - be non-profit distributing
Financial Trust or Investment Trust
Pensions or Staff Trust
Unit Trust

For the latest information on company names, please use the following link - Company Name Advice

2. Business Name Registration

In 1985 the Register of Business Names was abolished and the new Business Names Act 1985 specified requirements for the use of business names and disclosure of ownership. This was subject to minor amendments by the Company and Business Names (Amendment) Regulations 1992 and 1995. Now, although businesses are required to disclose their ownership the only registration requirement is for a limited company.

3. Approval of Names

If a business trades under a name other than that of the owner, or owners, or the name contains certain words, the name may require the written approval of the Secretary of State. Controlled names are set out in statutory regulations.

When a business changes hands, the new owner must seek further approval to use a name within 12 months of taking over the business. If a name was registered under the Registration of Business Names Act 1916 or gained approval under the Companies Act 1981, additional approval is required only when business ownership changes.

4. Disclosure of Ownership

All businesses, whether a sole trader or a partnership, must disclose the name and contact address of the owner or owners, in writing, to anyone with whom business is done, if they wish to know it. These details must be shown legibly on all business letters, orders, invoices, receipts and demands for debt. The information must also be displayed at all premises where business is carried out and where customers and suppliers are dealt with. There are no requirements on how this information is presented, as long as it is clear and prominent. There is no need to disclose the owner's name if the business is known by the owner's surname, e.g. 'W. Smith'. If the business is called 'W. Smith Plumbing', then the owner's name would have to be shown.

For a partnership where the name includes all the partners' names (with or without initials), there is no need to disclose the owners' names again. Where there are more than 20 partners they do not have to be listed on business documents. However, the address of the principal place of business from which a list of partners can be obtained must be supplied. You cannot list some of the partners' names and not others, it must be all or none. If another word is used in the name, then the owners' names must be disclosed separately.

Companies must comply with the disclosure requirements if they trade under a business name different to the full corporate name of the company. Companies must also disclose their registered office address (which may be different from their trading address), registration number and place of registration.

A registered company must display its name outside every place of business, in a conspicuous position and in easily legible letters.

5. Exemption from Using the Word 'Limited'

Certain types of companies can gain exemption from including 'limited' in their company name. These companies must be private companies limited by guarantee. In addition, they must satisfy all of the following conditions:

  1. The aims of the company must be the promotion of commerce, art, science, education, religion, charity or profession.
  2. The memorandum or articles of association must state that:
  3. Any profits or other income are to be spent in promoting the company's objectives.
  4. No dividends are to be paid to members.
  5. If the company is wound up, all the assets are to be transferred to another body that either has similar objectives or promotes charity.

6. Failure to Comply

Failure to comply with these requirements may result in fines and the loss of certain legal rights, e.g. you may lose the right to enforce contracts which have been entered into without compliance to the Act.


If this has left you feeling a little confused please call us and one of our Company Advisors will be happy to check your preferred name and offer any other assistance.

Return to Company Formation home page.

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