The options for limited company names have increased

Choosing a company name is not always easy. The company name you were thinking of may already exist or you may be searching for an inventive name which grabs attention and aims to quickly attract customers to your business.

Added to that, once you’ve made your decision you can find that government rules mean you either can’t choose the company name you want or you’re required to go through a number of laborious steps to justify that you can have it.

As part of the government’s ‘Red Tape Challenge’ however, which is aiming to reduce the administrative burden companies face, the options for company names changed on 31st January 2015. With immediate effect legal changes were made to simplify the rules and reduce the delays and costs associated with company names.

What are the key company names changes?

1. There are now fewer words requiring approval

When deciding on whether to approve your company name application Companies House checks the words you are planning to use against a list of ‘sensitive words’.

These are ‘words or expressions’ which when used in a company name could imply a business status or specific function, and so require approval in order to protect the general public from being misled by the name of your company.

Before the 31st January 2015 the most commonly used sensitive words were words like ‘International’, ‘Group’ and ‘Holdings’ and to have these in your company name you needed to provide additional ‘justification’ to get approval for their use. This often led to delays with the registration process, additional costs and frustrations for businesses.

That list of ‘sensitive words’ has however been reduced with the 2015 changes and you can now use these words and others in the list below without the need to get approval first:

  • Authority
  • European
  • Group
  • Holdings
  • International
  • National
  • United Kingdom.

For example if you now want to register your company name as ‘Jane Doe International Limited’ you no longer have to go through the previous extra administrative step of providing a written statement confirming which international countries you intended to be trading within 3 months of incorporation.

2. You can now use more characters in your company name

The 2015 changes have also extended the list of permitted characters that can be used in a company name. Previously only characters in the current Roman alphabet (plus a small number of additional characters) were allowed in company names however this list has now been extended to allow the use of accents, diacritical marks and ligatures.

For example characters such as Æ, Ë, Í, Õ and Û are today all permitted in a company name.

3. Words to be ‘ignored’ when determining if a company name is the ‘same as’ another

A company name can’t be exactly the same as another registered company’s name. The rules which determine whether a new company name is the ‘same as’ as one which already exists have also been altered with the 2015 changes.

The lists of words to be disregarded has been reduced which should make it easier for groups of companies to choose company names. And the rules have also been altered to take into the account the new permitted characters (e.g. Æ, Ë, Í etc).

The legislation gives the following example of when a name may be considered the ‘same as’ another:

“For example, the character “Ř” will be considered the same as “R”, and “É” will be considered the same a “E”. As a result, the name “ŘEAL COFFEE CAFÉ LTD” would be considered the same as the “REAL COFFEE CAFE LTD”.

However now that the word ‘Group’ will no longer be disregarded for the purposes of a comparison you will now be able to form the company ‘JANE DOE GROUP LTD’ even if ‘JANE DOE LIMITED’ is already on the company register.

Final thought

So as you can see the options for company names have just increased so this may give you some insights and spark your creativity to come up with a name that really stands apart and establishes that important connection with your potential customers.

So go ahead – get your creative juices flowing, and choose a limited company name that will be a proud flag bearer for your business and best represent you and your limited company.

And remember if you’ve already got a company name you can now also think about changing it to take advantage of these new rules.


Have you thought of a name for your new company or are you thinking of changing your existing company name? Check if it is available.

Latest from Basics of Business

5 key things about articles of association and shareholders agreements every new business owner should know

Posted on 17 September 2018

If you are planning to start a business and set up a limited company one thing is for certain. There...

Learn more

To be a limited company or not to be - the advantages and disadvantages of a limited company

Posted on 26 July 2018

When setting up a business in the UK you will need to decide what structure your business will take...

Learn more