Meanings and definitions
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with Western culture and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject
. (June 2019)
One can define a company as an "artificial person", invisible, intangible, created by or under law,
with a discrete legal personality, perpetual succession, and a common seal. Companies remain unaffected by the death, insanity, or insolvency of an individual member.
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 Lex Salica (c. 500 CE) as a calque of the Germanic expression gahlaibo (literally, "with bread"), related to Old High German galeipo ("companion") and to Gothic gahlaiba ("messmate").
Semantics and usage
By 1303, the word 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.
In English law and in legal jurisdictions based upon it, a company is a body corporate or corporation company registered under the Companies Acts or under similar legislation.
Common forms include:
In the United Kingdom, a partnership is not legally a company, but may sometimes be referred to informally as a company. It may be referred to as a firm.
In the United States, a company may be 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". In the US, a company is not necessarily a corporation.