charter, document granting certain rights, powers, or functions. It may be issued by the sovereign body of a state to a local governing body, university, or other corporation or by the constituted authority of a society or order to a local unit. The term was widely applied to various royal grants of rights in the Middle Ages and in early modern times. The most famous political charter is the Magna Carta of England. Chartered companies held broad powers of trade and government by royal charter. In colonial America, chartered colonies were in theory, and to an extent in fact, less subject to royal interference than were royal colonies.

Document granting certain specified rights, powers, privileges, or functions from the sovereign power of a state to a person, corporation, city, or other unit of local organization. In Magna Carta (1215), King John granted certain liberties to the English people. Elsewhere in medieval Europe, monarchs issued charters to towns, guilds, universities, and other institutions, granting the institution certain privileges and sometimes specifying how they should conduct their internal affairs. Later, charters were granted to overseas trading companies (e.g., the British East India Co.), granting them monopolies in certain areas. Britain's colonies in North America were established by charter. Modern charters may be corporate or municipal. A corporate charter, issued by a governmental body, grants individuals the power to form a corporation, or limited-liability company. A municipal charter is a law that creates a new political subdivision and allows the people within it to organize themselves into a municipal corporation, in effect delegating to the people the powers of local self-government.

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Joint declaration issued on Aug. 14, 1941, during World War II, by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Among the statements made in this propaganda manifesto, signed when the U.S. had not yet entered the war, were that neither the U.S. nor Britain sought aggrandizement and that both advocated the restoration of self-government to peoples forcibly deprived of it. The charter was incorporated by reference in the Declaration of the UN (1942).

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A charter is the grant of authority or rights, stating that the granter formally recognizes the prerogative of the recipient to exercise the rights specified. It is implicit that the granter retains superiority (or sovereignty), and that the recipient admits a limited (or inferior) status within the relationship, and it is within that sense that charters were historically granted, and that sense is retained in modern usage of the term. Also, charter can simply be a document giving royal permission to start a colony.

The word entered the English language from the Old French chartre (ultimately from the Latin word for "paper"), but the concept is universal and transcends language. It has come to be synonymous with the document that lays out the granting of rights or privileges.

Modern usage

As legislative bodies (such as parliaments) gained political power and obtained rights in their own name, they continued the custom of granting charters in the same fashion. The only difference was that legislatures now played the role of sovereign. As society has evolved, institutions that were once considered as requiring specific permission (such as towns, schools, and corporations) have become commonplace, and procedures have been streamlined such that if certain pre-specified conditions are met, the institutions are "chartered" almost automatically. That the procedures and conditions are pre-set does not alter the fact that the institutions are operating under a charter no different than if the charter had been specifically crafted for a single case.

Colloquial usages

The term is used for a special case (or as an exception) to an institutional charter. A charter school, for example, is one that has different rules, regulations, and statutes than a public school.

Charter is sometimes used as a synonym for 'rent' or 'lease', as in the 'charter' of a bus or boat by an organization, intended for a similar group destination.

A charter member of an organization is an original member; that is, one who became a member when the organization received its charter.

Any organization with a stated purpose or stated rules might be considered to have a charter, whether sanctioned by others or not.

See also


for example a charter from eliz to raleigh

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