North Carolina 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 North Carolina business name rules.

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

North Carolina LLC name

If you file your North Carolina LLC paperwork with a name that is already used by another North Carolina business entity – or that doesn’t meet the North Carolina 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 Entity 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 North Carolina Secretary of State’s rules, which we’ve broken down below.

How do I search the North Carolina business entity name database?

You can use the business entity search to search your business name against the existing business entities registered in North Carolina.

Note: This tool is sometimes called the North Carolina Business Name Search or the North Carolina Business Entity Search. They both refer to the same website and get you the same search records.

Visit the North Carolina Business Search page:

North Carolina Secretary of State: Business Search

It’s simple: enter your desired LLC name in the “Searching for” field.

Leave the first drop-down set to “Company” and the second drop-down set to “Starting With”. Just enter the name and click Search.

Screenshot with instructions on how to use the North Carolina Business Entity Search

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 North Carolina 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 Studio Starters”, then your name should be available.
Screenshot of sample results from the North Carolina Business Entity Search
Example of North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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.

North Carolina Secretary of State Contact Information

You can call the North Carolina Secretary of State to ask questions about whether your LLC name is available.

Representatives at the North Carolina Secretary of State can help you use the North Carolina Business Name Search. They can’t guarantee that your LLC name will be available when you file, however.

The Corporations Division phone number is 919-814-5400. Their hours are 8am to 5pm Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

North Carolina Limited Liability Company Name Requirements

As per the North Carolina Corporate Filings Act, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a North Carolina 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 Secretary of State.

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 North Carolina.

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

Your North Carolina LLC name must contain one of the following designators at the end:

  • LLC
  • L.L.C.
  • Limited Liability Co.
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Ltd. Liability Co.
  • Ltd. Liability Company

The following designators are not allowed

Your North Carolina LLC can’t make itself sound like a North Carolina 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.
  • Co-op
  • Incorporated
  • Corporation
  • Cooperative
  • Wholesale (unless the LLC doesn’t make retail sales)

What words are not allowed in my North Carolina LLC name?

Your North Carolina 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, 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, attorneys, dentists, and engineers. In North Carolina, you also can’t use words reserved for these other professionals: architects, engineers, realtors, surveyors.

For more information about restricted words for a North Carolina business entity, please see this page from the North Carolina Secretary of State: Feasibility of Name.

Your North Carolina business name must be distinguishable (unique)

When you use the North Carolina Secretary of State Business 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.

Below are rules and examples of LLC names that are not distinguishable.

Designators

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

If your desired LLC name is Plott Hounds LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the North Carolina Business Name Search results:

  • Plott Hounds, Inc.
  • Plott Hounds, Corp.
  • Plott Hounds, L.L.C.

Filler Words

Adding non-meaningful or filler words (the, a, an, and, &, of, or) won’t create distinguishability.

These types of filler words don’t create distinguishability in New York:

  • articles (a, an, the)
  • conjunctions (and, or)
  • prepositions (of, by, in, on)

If your desired LLC name is Scuppernong Farms LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:

  • The Scuppernong Farms LLC
  • On Scuppernong Farms Inc.
  • Scuppernong and Farms L.L.C.
  • By Scuppernong in Farms Corp

Numerals or Spelled Out Numbers

Using numerals (like 5 or 101) instead of spelling out the number (like “five” or “one hundred and one”) doesn’t create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is 25 Emeralds LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:

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

Spaces and Punctuation

Adding or removing punctuation or spaces between words doesn’t create distinguishability.

If your desired LLC name is Strawberry Blueberry LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found:

  • Straw-berry-Blue-berry Inc.
  • Strawberry/Blueberry Incorporated
  • “Strawberry” “Blueberry” LLC
  • Straw Berry Blue Berry, L.L.C.

Want to watch a video tutorial instead?

The video below shows you how to search LLC names in Colorado.

The video starts with LLC name rules in Colorado. Then at the 7:30 minute mark, you can see LLC searches being completed.

North Carolina LLC - Name Search

What if my North Carolina business name is rejected?

If you file your North Carolina Articles of Organization (the document that creates your North Carolina 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.

North Carolina Business Name FAQs

Do I need a name reservation in North Carolina?

No, a name reservation isn’t required to form an LLC in North Carolina. 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 North Carolina require LLC in the name?

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

  • LLC
  • Limited Liability Company
  • Ltd. Liability Co.
Does my North Carolina LLC need a DBA?

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

A DBA (known as an Assumed Business Name in North Carolina) 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 an Assumed Business Name Certificate with the County Register of Deeds. You’ll also pay an additional fee of $26 to the Register of Deeds.

Here is a list of all North Carolina Register of Deeds Offices, and a link to the Assumed Business Name Certificate form.

There is no limit to the number of Assumed Business 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 Old North State Tours LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Old North Tours. In this case, your LLC would need to file an Assumed Business Name Certificate to use the name Old North Tours.

If you don’t file an Assumed Business Name Certificate for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Old North State Tours LLC.

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 Secretary of State.

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 Scotch Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Scotch Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing North Carolina 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 North Carolina 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 North Carolina entity?

No. You can’t use the same name as another North Carolina 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 North Carolina Secretary of State 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 Secretary of State.

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

How to start an LLC in North Carolina?

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in North Carolina:

  1. Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
  2. Choose who will be your North Carolina Registered Agent
  3. File the North Carolina LLC Articles of Organization
  4. Complete and sign an LLC Operating Agreement
  5. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN) from the IRS
  6. Open an LLC bank account
  7. Check whether you need a business or sales tax license in North Carolina
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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15 comments on “North Carolina Name Search”

Disclaimer: Nothing on this page shall be interpreted as legal or tax advice. Rules and regulations vary by location. They also change over time and are specific to your situation. Furthermore, this comment section is provided so people can share their thoughts and experience. Please consult a licensed professional if you have legal or tax questions.

  1. Hey Matt, I really need to save money on all cost and was going to file myself. I looked on Zenbusiness and it have so many different add on, like Worry free guarantee, banking resolution, business webpage and business domain. Do I need and of these additional add on. Thank you for sharing this helpful information.

    • Hi Wanda, if you want the most affordable option, you can form the North Carolina LLC yourself and just pay the state filing fee. You can also act as your LLC Registered Agent too (and save money there). Any LLC filing company offering “free LLC formation” will attempt to make up that loss by upselling you during the checkout process and after you sign up (in your account dashboard and via emails) for other services you may or may not need. For people starting out, it can be confusing to determine what is needed and what is a BS item that a company makes sound important, and unfortunately, scares you into buying. Said another way, I’m not a fan of any free LLC filing service.

      If you want to file yourself, we have North Carolina LLC instructions on our site. Just follow the detailed lessons in order.

      The worry-free guarantee (what an ambiguous name) is likely the North Carolina LLC Annual Report, which you can file yourself. A Banking Resolution is a BS item that is unnecessary. Pretty much any bank where you open an LLC bank account already has a resolution in their signup paperwork. And they complete it for you when you open the account and you just have to sign. All the resolution does is you, as the LLC owner, authorize yourself to open a bank account for your LLC lol ;)

      You don’t have to buy a business website or domain name from an LLC filing company. You can do that later. And most LLC filing companies that offer a website and/or domain name, are usually offering a “white label” product or service. Meaning, they are just reselling something offered by another company and making more money off you. I think forming an LLC is enough to worry about. Don’t add stress to your plate and try to build a website at the same time. You can do that in a few months or down the road, if you need it. If you do, you can buy a domain name from NameSilo (that’s who we use) and you can get website hosting from SiteGround. They have really good support. We recommend using WordPress (WordPress.org, not WordPress.com) and you can call SiteGround and they can help you install WordPress. It’s more complicated than a basic “website builder”, but it allows for more powerful features to support your business now, and as it grows. Hope that helps!

  2. Hi Matt:
    I received an EIN # several years ago for a DBA but now would like to go further with a business as an LLC and keep the name we have. What is the process for that change.

    Thanks & By the way, what you’ve done with this site is Awesome.

    Jimmy

    • Thanks Jimmy! In this case, you need to get a new EIN for your LLC. You can’t use the old EIN. And then you can transfer/assign the DBA from yourself to your LLC. This way, your LLC can do business under the same DBA name. Hope that helps.

      • So I am like jimmy but I was wondering could I get an EIN the LLC name and not my own?

        • Hi Chris, can you rephrase your question? We don’t understand what you are asking. Thanks.

  3. I live in MD but originally from NC. I’m in the process of buying rental property there soon and eventually grow to additional houses. Should I form a LLC in MD or NC? I don’t plan on buying property in MD.

    • Hi Adrian, for real estate LLCs, you want the LLC to be formed/registered in the state where the property is located since that’s where you’re doing business. In this case, sounds like that would be North Carolina. Hope that helps.

  4. The name that I would like for my is taken but it says Admin Dissolved.
    Does that mean that I can have it?

    • Hi Dylan, I don’t remember off the top of my head how long after an LLC name is Administratively Dissolved in NC it becomes available. I’d have someone from our team call the Secretary of State for you to find out, but it’s after hours now. Please call the state and ask. They’ll be able to guide you. Hope that helps.

  5. I had registered and got a license for a small non-profit organization and I never really worked under it. I worked out youth in sports and did camps. But I do not have the full name or any information about it. How do I find out the name of my organization and if it still exists in NC?

    Thank You

    • Hi Anita, if you don’t know the name of the company that was setup, I’m not sure how you would search it. You can try calling the Secretary of State’s office to see if they can search it by address or by some other means.

  6. I am a truck driver and currently have a LLC in NC. Someone else set it up for me and just picked a name. What steps do I have to take to change the name and how much would it cost? Thank you

    • Hey Marco, in order to change an LLC name in NC, you’ll need to file an ‘Amendment of Articles of Organization’. Please visit this link (https://www.ncbels.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/L-17.pdf) and download Form L-17. The NC Secretary of State fee is $50.

      #1: Enter your existing LLC name.

      #2: Write the following: “The name of the limited liability company shall henceforth be known as NEW NAME.” Make sure to include the designator “L.L.C.” or “LLC” at the end of your new name. The designator “LLC” is the most commonly used.

      #3: Check off B.

      #4: Leave blank.

      Then enter the day, month, and year. At the bottom, enter the old/existing name of the LLC, sign your name, and then type your name followed by a comma and the word “Member” as your title.

      For payment, prepare a check or money order for $50 (made payable to “North Carolina Secretary of State”). Then mail your check or money order and the completed Form L-17 to:

      Secretary of State
      P.O. Box 29622
      Raleigh, NC 27626-0622

      Hope that helps :) Let us know if you have any questions!

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