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        The Company Name


        Below is a list of subjects that may affect your choice of company name when applying for a limited company.

        Is your proposed company name unique?


        The name must be unique in the sense that it is not currently registered. You can use our inbuilt search facility to check the name is free before proceeding. It is also important to realise that Companies House will remove any punctuation and spaces within the name when determining whether the name is currently registered, for example:

        ABC!-UK Limited would not be allowed if ABC UK Limited was already registered as the punctuation is ignored also AB C UK Limited would also be rejected as in this case the spaces will be ignored.

        In addition to punctuation and spaces Companies House will also ignore the words THE' and COMPANY' therefore these words cannot be used to make a previously registered name unique.

        Company names that are in liquidation or have been dissolved


        You cannot register a company name that is currently in liquidation, this is denoted by an L' character situated next to the name on the Companies House search facility. You can however register a company name that has been dissolved. This will be denoted by a D' character next to the name.

        What are sensitive words?


        These are words and expressions that, when used in a company name, may imply business pre-eminence, a particular status or a specific function. For this reason, sensitive words have been prescribed in regulations as requiring the approval of the Secretary of State. The aim is to ensure that use of the word is justified so that the public is not misled by the name. We act on behalf of the Secretary of State in dealing with applications for approval of such words and expressions and will forward any supplementary documentation relating to applications for sensitive words.

        If an application is made on the Electronic Company Formation Wizard that contains a sensitive word, our administration department will contact you accordingly with instructions relating to the type of information that must be submitted.

        See a list of Companies House Sensitive Words

        Which words and expressions are regarded as sensitive?


        The following words imply national or international pre-eminence:

        British - approval of this word in your company name will depend on how it is used. Normally the Secretary of State would expect the company to be British owned. You would need to show that the company is pre-eminent in its field by providing supporting evidence from an independent source such as a Government department or a trade association.

        If the word 'British' is qualified by words that do not describe an activity o r p roduct, for example by using a 'made-up' word, then evidence of pre-eminence is not necessarily essential. But you would be expected to show that your company is substantial in relation to its activity o r p roduct and that it is eminent in its own field.

        England, English, Scotland, Scottish, Wales, Welsh, Ireland or Irish - if you wish to use these words as a prefix to your company name, the rules are similar to those for 'British'. You will usually be given approval to use any of these words as a suffix if you show that the company has its main place of business in the country concerned. If you want to use one of these words because it is a surname, you will usually be given approval if the company name includes forenames or initials.

        European - names which include this word will not be approved if they unjustifiably imply a connection with official bodies of the European Union. If there is a genuine connection with an official body, the name may be allowed if the appropriate body supports the application.

        Great Britain or United Kingdom - if you wish to use these expressions as a prefix, or to use 'of Great Britain ' or 'of the United Kingdom ' as a suffix, then the criteria are the same as for 'British'. If the words are used as a suffix to the name, they are normally allowed without difficulty. Using the initials 'GB' or ' UK ' in your company name does not require approval.

        International - if you wish to use this word as a prefix , you need to show that the major part of the company's activities is in trading overseas. If you wish to use it as a suffix , then approval will usually be given if you can show that the company operates in two or more overseas countries.

        National - the criteria for use of this word are the same as for 'British'.


        The following words imply business pre-eminence or representative or authoritative status:

        association, federation or society - if you wish to use one of these words, your company would normally be limited by guarantee . Each member should have one vote and the constitution should contain a non-profit distribution clause. This provides that any profits should be used to further the objects of the company and not be paid to the members as dividends.

        authority, board or council - if you want to use any of these words, you should ask us for advice. If the company is to be registered in Scotland , contact Companies House in Edinburgh .

        institute or institution - approval for use of these words is normally given only to those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or to professional bodies of the highest standing. You will need to demonstrate that there is a need for the proposed institute and that it has appropriate regulations or examination standards. You will need evidence of support from other representative and independent bodies.

        The following words imply specific objects or functions:

        assurance, assurer, insurance, insurer, re-assurance, re-assurer, re-insurance or re-insurer - if the name is needed for an underwriting company, we will normally seek further advice. However, if you want to use the name for a company that will only provide insurance services, then you should include the appropriate qualification, for example 'agents', 'consultants' or 'services', in the name.

        benevolent, foundation or fund - names that include any of these words will normally be refused if they imply that the company has charitable status. If the company is limited by guarantee and has a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association , then the name will normally be approved.

        charter or chartered - names that include these words will be refused if they unjustifiably give the impression that the company has a Royal Charter. If the words are used to qualify a profession, advice must be sought from the appropriate governing body before considering whether to give approval.

        charity - approval for a name including this word normally depends on the company being registered with the Charity Commission. A company's objects should be charitable and the memorandum should contain a non-profit distribution clause.

        benevolent, foundation or fund - names that include any of these words will normally be refused if they imply that the company has charitable status. If the company is limited by guarantee and has a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association , then the name will normally be approved.

        chemist or chemistry - if you want to use these words, you should ask for advice from Companies House in Cardiff . If the company is to be registered in Scotland , contact Companies House in Edinburgh .

        co-operative - any company wanting to use this word should normally be limited by guarantee with each member having one vote, and include a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association . However, a company limited by shares may also be permitted to use 'co-operative' in its name in some circumstances. In either case, we may ask you to provide more detailed information before giving approval.

        Friendly Society or Industrial and Provident Society - we will refer names which include these expressions to the Registrar of Friendly Societies for advice. If you want to use them in your company name, you should first ask Companies House in Cardiff . If the company is to be registered in Scotland , contact Companies House in Edinburgh .

        group - if use of this word implies several companies under one corporate ownership, then you will need to provide evidence of association with two or more other British or overseas companies. If the name clearly shows that the company is to promote the interests of a group of individuals, then the name will normally be approved.

        holding(s) - a company wishing to use this word must be a holding company as defined under Section 736 of the Companies Act 1985.

        patent or patentee - a name including either word will only be approved if it does not contravene the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act 1988.

        post office - we are likely to seek advice on applications that include these words.

        register or registered - we treat every application for use of these words on its merits. Generally, we will seek advice from the appropriate governing body if names that include these words are linked with a professional qualification. The name will not be registered if it unjustifiably implies a connection with HM Government or a local authority. If such a connection actually exists, the name may be allowed if the appropriate body supports the application.

        Sheffield - if you wish to use a name that includes the word ' Sheffield ', we will need to establish details of the company's location and its business activities. We will also consult the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.

        stock exchange - names including this expression will normally be refused unless there are special circumstances.

        trade union - names including this expression will normally be refused unless they conform to legislation relating to trade unions.

        trust - the word 'trust' can be used in many different senses. Each application is dealt with on its merits but the main uses of this word are as follows:

        charitable trust - these companies need to have charitable objects and a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association . You will be asked for confirmation that you have made, or will make, an application for registration as a charity with the Charity Commission. Scottish companies wishing to use the expression 'charitable trust' will need to apply to the Inland Revenue in Edinburgh as the Charity Commission has no jurisdiction in Scotland .

        educational trust or artistic trust - such companies should have a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association and the name should reflect the nature of the trust. The promoters should be of high standing in the field.

        enterprise trust - these companies must have a non-profit distribution clause in the memorandum of association and they must be able to provide evidence of support from, for example, local authorities, businesses or banks.

        family trust - such companies must be non-profit distributing and the objects must reflect the nature of the trust. Names of family trusts will usually be approved if the name as a whole identifies the company as such.

        financial trust or investment trust - if you wish to use these expressions, you will need to provide a written assurance that substantial paid-up share capital or other funds will be achieved within a reasonable period after incorporation.

        pensions or staff trust - the names of such companies must include the name of the parent company, and the objects of the company must include the operation of pension funds.

        unit trust - if you wish to use this as part of your company name, you should seek the advice of Companies House in Cardiff . If the company is to be registered in Scotland, contact Companies House in Edinburgh.

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