DEFINITION of 'Public'

A reference to anything that can be possessed or freely researched by any person or group of people in the general population. The term public is most commonly used to describe a company's shares or any other type of financial instrument that trades in the secondary markets. In other words, any securities that trade on an exchange and can be bought or sold by anyone in the general population are referred to as publicly traded securities.


There are thousands of companies that have shares and financial products that are available to be bought or sold by the public. These companies must file reports that meet the strict requirements of the Securities And Exchange Commission. As a result of the requirements and regulations, public companies tend to be more transparent and subject to much more public scrutiny than private companies.