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In practical terms there is no difference as the words are used interchangeably to refer to the pieces of paper used to denote ownership of a particular company. Most commonly these are called Stock Certificates in the US and Share Certificates in the UK.

In modern financial markets, the distinction between stocks and shares has been somewhat blurred and in general usage 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, 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?

Just bear in mind that what you buy and sell on a Stock Exchange are shares and you can see the overlap in terminology has more to do with syntax than financial or legal accuracy.

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Category: Guide to City Jargon 

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