Definition of Ticker Symbol

A ticker symbol is a short, unique code that is used to identify a publicly traded company on a stock exchange.

Ticker symbols are typically one to five letters long and are assigned by the stock exchange. When a company first goes public, it selects a ticker symbol that it will use on all future filings with the SEC. Ticker symbols are also sometimes known as stock symbols or trading symbols.

Key Takeaways

  • The ticker symbol is like a fingerprint used to identify each company listed on an exchange. No two companies can have the same ticker symbol.
  • Ticker symbols can be one to five letters long with additional letters at the end representing additional characteristics of the stock
  • If you want to buy stock in a company, you need to know its ticker symbol. That's how brokerages identify the companies listed on exchanges.

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Examples of Ticker Symbols

Ticker symbols are short and easy to remember. They can be as short as one letter, like "F" for Ford Motor Company. Sometimes, they're an abbreviation of the company's name, like "DIS" for Walt Disney Co (DIS). Other times, they have nothing to do with the company's name, like "WOOF" for Petco Health and Wellness Company Inc.

Some well-known ticker symbols include AAPL (Apple Inc.), GOOGL (Alphabet Inc.), and MSFT (Microsoft Corporation).

Ticker symbols can also be used to represent other types of securities, such as bonds and ETFs. For example, the ticker symbol for US Treasury bonds is TSY, while the ticker symbol for SPDR S&P 500 ETF is SPY.

Sometimes the ticker symbols have extra letters at the end. For example, Berkshire Hathaway's symbol is BRK.A. These letters are there for a reason - they denote additional characteristics of the stock, such as share class or trading restrictions. The extra letters added to Berkshire Hathaway's stock symbol tell you that it is a Class A share.

By knowing what these extra letters mean, you can get a better understanding of a company's stock and make more informed investment decisions.

History of Ticker Symbols

The history of the ticker symbol dates to the late 1800s when telegraph systems were first used to transmit stock prices. Because of the limited number of characters that could be sent over the telegraph, a system of abbreviations was developed to represent different stocks.

The first ticker symbols were designed to be as short as possible so that they could be transmitted quickly and easily. Over time, as more and more stocks were added to the market, ticker symbols became more standardized.

Ticker symbols became more widely used after they were adopted by the American Stock Exchange in 1925 and then by Nasdaq in 1971. Ticker symbols are now primarily used for identification purposes, although they can also be used to convey information about a company's stock price. For example, a company's stock price may be displayed alongside its ticker symbol.

Ticker symbols were also used to create simple stock charts, known as ticker tapes. Ticker tapes were once a common sight in financial districts, but they have since been replaced by electronic charts.

Why Is the Ticker Symbol Important?

A company's ticker symbol is like its signature - it's a unique identifier that helps investors keep track of their holdings. When you buy a stock, you need to know its ticker symbol. It's how that company is identified on exchanges and it's how you tell your broker which company's stock you want to buy or sell. You'll see this ticker symbol listed on the trade confirmation. The ticker symbol can also be found in news stories and other financial information sources.

Ticker symbols are important because they provide a quick and easy way for investors to identify particular security. This is especially important in fast-moving markets, where every second counts. By having a quick way to identify securities, investors can make decisions quickly and efficiently without having to waste time looking up information about a particular company or security.

For example, if you're tracking a sector or index, you may need to know the ticker symbols for all the stocks in that group. And if you're using technical analysis, you may need to watch for certain chart patterns that are specific to a particular stock's ticker symbol. So, while the ticker symbol may not seem like much, it's an important part of the investing process.

While ticker symbols can help identify particular security, it is important to remember that they do not provide any information about a company's financial health or future performance. For this reason, it is always advisable to research a company before investing in its stock.

Other Types of Stock Symbols

While ticker symbols are the most common type of stock symbols, there are also two other kinds of stock symbols, which are less known. Below are two other kinds of stock symbols, apart from the ticker symbol.


CUSIPs (Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures) are nine-character alphanumeric codes that identify specific securities, such as bonds or preferred stocks. The code is used to facilitate the clearing and settlement of trades. It is also used as a means of identifying securities for various purposes, such as processing corporate actions and managing portfolios.

The code consists of a six-character issuer identifier, followed by a two-character issue identifier, and a single check digit. The issuer identifier indicates the company that issued the security, while the issue identifier identifies the specific type of security. The check digit is used to verify the accuracy of the code.

CUSIP codes are maintained by the American Bankers Association's Committee on Uniform Securities Identification Procedures.


ISINs (International Securities Identification Numbers) are unique 12-character codes that identify securities traded globally. If you're buying or selling stocks that aren't traded on U.S. exchanges, you'll need to use an ISIN.

The ISIN consists of three parts: the country code, the security identifier, and the checksum. The country code is two letters and identifies the country where the security was issued. The security identifier is nine characters and identifies the specific security. The checksum is a single digit that verifies the accuracy of the other 11 digits.

The ISIN is typically used by banks and brokerages for clearing and settlement systems. It is also used by institutional investors to identify holdings in their portfolios.