Loading the player...

In today's financial markets, the distinction between stocks and shares has been somewhat blurred. Generally, these words are used interchangeably to refer to the pieces of paper that denote ownership in a particular company, called stock certificates. However, the difference between the two words comes from the context in which they are used.

For example, "stock" is a general term used to describe the ownership certificates of any company, in general, and "shares" refers to a the ownership certificates of a particular company. So, if investors say they own stocks, they are generally referring to their overall ownership in one or more companies. Technically, if someone says that they own shares - the question then becomes - shares in what company?

Bottom line, stocks and shares are the same thing. The minor distinction between stocks and shares is usually overlooked, and it has more to do with syntax than financial or legal accuracy.

(To read more on stocks, see our Stock Basics Tutorial.)

  1. How do you get a hard copy of a stock certificate?

    Before online brokers and personally-directed accounts, holding a physical stock certificate was a necessity, as this was ... Read Answer >>
  2. Should I convert my telecom paper stocks to electronic records?

    Convert your paper shares of a telecommunications company's stock to electronic form in just a few simple steps, and make ... Read Answer >>
  3. Why would a company buyback its own shares?

    Learn about share buybacks and some of the many reasons a company may choose to repurchase its own stock, including ownership ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Old Stock Certificates: Lost Treasure Or Wallpaper?

    What if you've discovered some old shares in bearer form? Follow our tips and find out what they're worth.
  2. Investing

    Why Do Companies Care About Their Stock Prices?

    Read on to learn more about the nature of stocks and the true meaning of ownership.
  3. Financial Advisor

    What Is The Difference Between Preferred Stock And Common Stock?

    Most investors are familiar with common stock, but many know little about another form of company ownership: preferred stock.
  4. Investing

    Explaining Market Value of Equity

    Market value of equity is the total value of all the outstanding stock as measured in the stock market at a particular time.
  5. Investing

    Defining The 3 Types Of Investments

    Investments can be divided into three distinct groups – ownership, lending and cash equivalents.
  6. Investing

    The Alphabet Soup Of Stocks

    Are the countless stock categories leaving you puzzled? Here we help you sort through the confusion.
  7. Investing

    The Basics Of Outstanding Shares And The Float

    We go over different types of shares and what investors need to know about them.
  8. Investing

    What Are Corporate Actions?

    Corporate actions are processes that change a company’s stock. Here are a few examples.
  1. Share Certificate

    A share certificate is a written document signed on behalf of ...
  2. Stock Certificate

    The physical piece of paper representing ownership in a company. ...
  3. Certificated Stock

    The stock of a commodity that has been inspected by qualified ...
  4. Stock Power

    A legal power of attorney form that transfers the ownership of ...

    A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset. ...
  6. Trust Certificate

    A bond or debt investment, usually in a public corporation, that ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Wealth Management

    A high-level professional service that combines financial/investment advice, accounting/tax services, retirement planning ...
  2. Assets Under Management - AUM

    The market value of assets that an investment company manages on behalf of investors. Assets under management (AUM) is looked ...
  3. Subprime Auto Loan

    A type of auto loan approved for people with substandard credit scores or limited credit histories. There is no official ...
  4. Racketeering

    A fraudulent service built to serve a problem that wouldn't otherwise exist without the influence of the enterprise offering ...
  5. Federal Debt

    The total amount of money that the United States federal government owes to creditors. The government's creditors include ...
  6. Passive Management

    A style of management associated with mutual and exchange-traded funds (ETF) where a fund's portfolio mirrors a market index. ...
Trading Center