DC Business Name Search (LLC lookup) – 2024 Guide

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LLC names
A unique business name is important for branding, but it’s easy to get lost in all the District of Columbia business name rules.

This page will teach you how to look up your LLC name and make sure it’s available to use.

Washington DC LLC name

If you file your District of Columbia LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another DC business entity – or that doesn’t meet the District of Columbia name rules – your filing may be rejected.

The first step to checking if your LLC name passes is to make sure your name is not already taken by another business.

You can do this using the Business Filings Search. And you need to do this because two business entities in the state can’t have the same name or be too similar.

The second step is to make sure your LLC name follows the DLCP’s rules, which we’ve broken down below.

How do I search the Washington DC business entity name database?

You can use the business entity search to search your business name against the existing business entities registered in the District of Columbia.

Note: This tool is sometimes called the DC Business Filings Search, DC Business Name Search or the DC Business Entity Search. They all refer to the same website and get you the same search records.

Visit the DLCP Business Search Page:

Washington DC Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection: CorpOnline

Note: This tool requires a free Access DC login.

From your CorpOnline dashboard, simply scroll down the page until you see the Business Filings Search tab.

Screenshot with instructions on how to use the DC Business Entity Search

The Business Filings Search is simple to use:

Enter your desired LLC name in the “Search by Entity Name” field. Then click “Search”.

You don’t need to change any of the Search Options. Just ignore that button.

Search tips:

  • Leave out “LLC”, “L.L.C.”, “Limited Liability Company”, etc., when doing your searches.
  • Leave out any commas, periods, apostrophes, etc.
  • You can search using uppercase or lowercase letters.


How to interpret the Washington DC LLC search results

If the results show names that are not too similar to yours (meaning yours is distinguishable), then your Limited Liability Company name is available for use.

  • Let’s keep using the example above. If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the only similar names you saw were “Riverwalk Rentals” and “Riverwalk Holding Ltd”, then your name should be available.
Screenshot of sample results from the District of Columbia Business Entity Search
Example of DC Business Entity Search results

If no results show up, that means your LLC name is unique and it should be available for use. To be safe, run your search again using only part of your LLC name (to double-check that there are no similar names).

  • For example, search just the word “Riverwalk” instead of Riverwalk Studios.

If your exact LLC name appears in the list of search records, your LLC name is not available for use because another DC business entity is already using it.

If the results show a name that is very similar to yours, your LLC name may not be available for use.

  • If your desired name is Riverwalk Studios LLC, and the search results show a “Riverwalk Studio”, then your name is not available.

What if my desired LLC name isn’t available?

If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different name for your LLC.

Tip: Wait until your LLC is approved before you apply for your LLC EIN Number or purchase any other marketing materials. This way you don’t spend money on business supplies you can’t use because your business name isn’t available.

District of Columbia DLCP Contact Information

You can call the District of Columbia Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection to ask questions about whether your LLC name is available.

Representatives at the DLCP can help you use the DC Business Filings Search. They can’t guarantee that your LLC name will be available when you file, however.

The Corporations Division phone number is 202-671-4500. Their hours are 8:30am to 4:30pm Eastern Time (except Thursdays, when they open late at 9:30am).

District of Columbia Limited Liability Company Name Requirements

As per Section 29-103.01 and 29-103.02 of the DC Business Organizations Code, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a District of Columbia business entity that you need to know.

Do I have to use a comma in my LLC name?

No, you don’t have to. You can file your LLC name with or without a comma. Both versions are accepted by the DLCP.

For example: If your desired business name is Grandpa Joe’s, you can file it as:

  • Grandpa Joe’s LLC
  • Grandpa Joe’s, LLC

Or, instead of having “LLC” as your designator (ending), there are a few other options in the District of Columbia.

What designators (endings) can I use in my LLC name?

Your District of Columbia LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:

  • LC
  • L.C.
  • LLC
  • L.L.C.
  • Limited Company
  • Limited Liability Company

The following designators are not allowed

Your Washington DC LLC can’t make itself sound like a DC Corporation or any other business entity besides an LLC.

The following words and designators can’t be used anywhere in your LLC name:

  • Inc.
  • Corp.
  • Incorporated
  • Corporation
  • Non Profit
  • Non Profit Corporation

What words are not allowed in my District of Columbia LLC name?

Your DC LLC name can’t contain words and abbreviations that are restricted by law.

For example, you can’t make your LLC name sound like it’s a bank or insurance company, part of the government or a government agency, or anything else that misleads the public.

You also can’t use words that are reserved for licensed professionals. These vary by state, but some common examples are accountants, architects, attorneys, dentists, and engineers.

English language or English alphabet Requirement

Per DC Regulation 17-709.1, if your desired LLC name is in a foreign language, you must register the English translation of the name. That is, your DC Articles of Organization must use the English translation of the name.

For example: If your desired DC business name is प्राण योग Studio LLC, you must file it as Prana Yoga Studio LLC.

Your District of Columbia business name must be distinguishable (unique)

When you search the DLCP CorpOnline Business Filings Search, you will compare your desired LLC name to existing businesses in the state.

If your name is not unique, you’ll need to come up with a variation or a different business name.

Designators

Differences in designators (endings) don’t create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is Justitia Fishing Company LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the DC Business Filings Search results:

  • Justitia Fishing Company, Inc.
  • Justitia Fishing Company, Corp.
  • Justitia Fishing Company, L.L.C.

Filler Words

Adding non-meaningful or filler words (the, a, an, and, &, of, or) can create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is Scarlet Oaks LLC, you could still use that name even if any of the following are found:

  • The Scarlet Oaks LLC
  • A Scarlet Oak Inc.
  • Scarlet and Oaks L.L.C.
  • Scarlet & Oaks Corp

Plural or Singular Words and Possessive Words

Adding a letter “s” to make a word plural or possessive does create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is Cherry’s Balloons LLC, you could still use that name even if any of the following are found:

  • Cherrys Balloons LLC
  • Cherry’s Balloon Inc.
  • Cherry Balloon, L.L.C.

Numerals or Spelled Out Numbers

Using numerals (like 5 or 101) instead of spelling out the number (like “five” or “one hundred and one”) does create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is 25 Stars LLC, you could use that name even if any of the following are found:

  • Twenty-Five Stars LLC
  • Twenty 5 Stars Inc.

You could also use Roman numerals to create distinguishability.

Let’s say your desired LLC name is Rock 2 Earth LLC. But there is already a Rock 2 Earth Inc. in DC. You could register your LLC with the name Rock II Earth LLC instead.

Punctuation and Special Characters

Adding punctuation and special characters can create distinguishability.

But the DLCP specifically cautions that these characters are ignored by the Business Entity Search. So when someone looks up your company, they could easily confuse you with a different business (that has the same name, but without the punctuation or symbols).

Be careful if you choose to use punctuation or symbols in your business name.

If your desired LLC name is Girl$ Salon LLC, you could still use that name if any of the following are found:

  • Girls * Salon Inc.
  • Girl’s Salon LLC
  • Girls “Salon” L.L.C.
  • Girls-Salon Inc.

What if my Washington DC business name is rejected?

If you file your District of Columbia Articles of Organization (the document that creates your DC LLC) and the business name is not available, don’t panic. The state will notify you and tell you why your filing was rejected.

You will just need to file again with a variation of your LLC name or a different LLC name.

District of Columbia Business Name FAQs

Do I need a name reservation in Washington DC?

No, a name reservation isn’t required to form an LLC in DC. It’s an unnecessary step and a waste of money.

You can just file your LLC’s Articles of Organization with your desired LLC name.

Does the District of Columbia require LLC in the name?

Yes. Your District of Columbia LLC name must contain one of the allowable designators at the end. The most commonly used designators are:

  • LLC
  • Limited Liability Company
Does my DC LLC need a DBA?

No, you’re not required to file a DBA (“Doing Business As”) for your business entity in Washington DC.

A DBA (known as a Trade Name in Washington DC) lets your LLC conduct business under a name which is different from its true and legal name (the name on your Articles of Organization).

If you want your LLC to do business under a name that’s different from its true and legal name, you have to file a Trade Name Registration Application and pay an additional fee of $55 to the DLCP. Check out the DLCP Trade Name Guide for more information on this process.

If you are going to file a Trade Name for your District of Columbia LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.

There is no limit to the number of Trade Names an LLC can have.

For more information, please see Does my LLC need a DBA?

When would my LLC use a DBA?

Let’s say you form an LLC called Robin River Cruise Lines LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Robin Cruises. In this case, your LLC would need to file a Trade Name Registration Application to use the name Robin Cruises.

If you don’t file a Trade Name Registration Application for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Robin River Cruise Lines LLC.

Similarly, if you want to do business under the name Robin River Cruise Lines, just without the letters “LLC” in the name, you will need to file a Trade Name Registration Application for Robin River Cruise Lines.

How do I get a business domain name?

Once you’ve found a business name that you like, it’s a good idea to check if your domain name is available before forming your LLC.

You can search for available domain names with GoDaddy:

What does “distinguishability” mean?

Each business entity name must be “distinguishable upon the records” of the DLCP.

This means that no two businesses can operate with the same exact name. Said another way, if a business already exists with your desired LLC name, you can’t register your LLC with that name.

For example, let’s say you want to form an LLC called Anacostia Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Anacostia Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing DC Corporation, it is not distinguishable. You can’t use it and must choose another name.

How do I come up with a business name?

Business names are important for branding and recognition. The name of your Washington DC LLC can be your company’s brand name, but it doesn’t have to be (please see the FAQ about DBAs above). Either way, picking a good LLC name is an important decision.

Here are some quick tips for coming up with business names:

  1. First, write down the features of your company and things that you want to be associated with.
  2. Then list out as many business names as you can think of. Don’t edit or analyze them. Just get as many names on the page as you can.
  3. Now go back and read through them. Write down any variations that come to mind.
  4. Next, set the list aside. Do something else, like go for a walk or get groceries, or sleep on it for the night. Then come back and review the list of names. As you go through it, write down additional ideas and variations.
  5. Read the whole list out loud. If you want, get input from friends, business partners, and family.
  6. Repeat the process: sleep on the ideas, write down new variations, read them out loud again.
  7. The best business name will often “rise off the page” and present itself. If it doesn’t, you can try this trick: Close your eyes and count to 10. When you get to 10, you must choose a name. When you open your eyes, force yourself to make a decision. Sometimes we know the best name deep in our subconscious, and this trick can help it come out. Trust yourself and go with what feels best.

For more tips, please see How to Choose an LLC Name.

Can I use the name of another DC entity?

No. You can’t use the same name as another DC business.

And it doesn’t matter what entity type it is – your LLC can’t have the same entity name as another corporation, LLC, or any other entity type.

You can’t use another business’s name even if the entity is in “delinquent” status on the DLCP website.

But if a business is dissolved, they no longer have rights to that name. This means you can form an LLC with the same name.

How do I change my LLC name?

You can change your LLC’s name later by filing an Amendment form with the DLCP.

We have step-by-step instructions on how to change an LLC name in DC.

How do I start an LLC in Washington DC?

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in the District of Columbia:

  1. Choose an LLC business name and make sure it’s available
  2. Choose who will be your DC Registered Agent
  3. File the District of Columbia LLC Articles of Organization
  4. Complete and sign an Operating Agreement
  5. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
  6. File your DC LLC Tax Registration
  7. Obtain a Certificate of Occupancy or Home Occupation Permit
  8. Get the DC Basic Business License
  9. Open an LLC bank account

Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz
Matt Horwitz is the leading expert on LLC education, and has been teaching for 15 years. He founded LLC University in 2010 after realizing people needed simple and actionable instructions to start an LLC. He's cited by Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and was featured by CNBC and InventRight.
 
Matt holds a Bachelor's Degree in business from Drexel University with a concentration in business law. He performs extensive research and analysis to convert state laws into simple instructions anyone can follow to form their LLC - all for free! Read more about Matt Horwitz and LLC University.

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