Choosing a company name

In this article:

Are all company names accepted?

Most names are acceptable to Companies House when forming a limited company, but there are a few exceptions. These exceptions fall into the following categories:

1. Your proposed name must be different from that of a company already incorporated.

2. Certain words like "British" or "Royal" must be substantiated by providing evidence of other related companies or companies operating in at least two different countries. You will need to apply for the use of sensitive words.

3. Names containing words likely to cause offence are not allowed.

You can use our company name check system to see whether your chosen name is too alike another existing name already on the Companies House register. Should your chosen name be similar to an existing name, that company could object within 12 months, and you may be forced to change your company's name.

Sensitive/Reserved words

A sensitive word or expression (also known as reserved words) could imply a connection with the UK government, an administration or specified public authority. Words such as King or Queen are sensitive words, and you must request approval to use a sensitive word from the appropriate bodies/persons before incorporating your company.

Companies Act 2006 list of sensitive words.

Similar names

Your company name must be unique and can't be exactly or similar to the name of another registered company's name. You can search on Companies House register to see if a name's been taken. If the name is too similar, the company would be rejected.
For the extensive list of words/expressions take a look here.

If you already owned XYZ Ltd and wanted to form XYZ GB Ltd this would be possible. You would just need to create a supporting document detailing your ownership or directorship of the original company.

Punctuation

Companies House will accept the following punctuation, signs and symbols marks:

  • 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9
  • full stop (.), comma (,), colon (:), semi-colon (;) or hyphen (-)

Choosing a business name if you're self employed

A business name when you're self employed is not the same as choosing one for a limited company. The sole trader business name must not use 'LTD' or 'Limited', 'PLC', 'LLP' etc., in the business name. Read the rules for naming your business.

Trading names

You can trade using a different name to your limited company name, this is known as a trading name. For example, Delicacy Treats Ltd trading as Scrumptious Cakes.   
The Business Names Act 1985 imposes certain legal requirements on companies adopting this business technique. A trading name cannot be the same as or similar to another company or business name that is already registered with the same name.

You also cannot register one company name (which is completely different) then use a trading name which is the same as an existing registered (and trading) company name.

Please note, the use of a sensitive word, 'Ltd' or 'Limited', is prohibited/regulated in use as part of a trading name in much the same way as it is for limited company names. You will also need to display the trading name where your business is carried out, on any business documents, invoices, etc.

A trading name is not properly protected, so you'll need to register your name as a trade mark.

Trade marks

You can register a trade mark to protect your brand, e.g, the name of your product or service. The trade mark can be represented in a form of a name, logo, sounds, colours or a combination of any of these. Unfortunately, we do not offer trade mark services however, you can register your trade mark with the Intellectual Property Organization (IPO).

Please note: You cannot use another company's trade mark as your business name.

Still need help? Contact Us Contact Us