Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania business name rules.

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

Pennsylvania LLC name

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

How do I search the Pennsylvania business entity name database?

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

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

Visit the Pennsylvania Business Search page:

Pennsylvania Department of State: Business Search

It’s simple:

  1. Enter your desired LLC name in the search bar.
  2. Click “Advanced” to open the search options. Change the search type to “Contains“.
  3. Then click search.

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

Why use “Contains”? If you leave the system set to “Starts With” you might miss a similar name which adds a filler word. For example, if you searched “Gopher Guy” using the “Starts With” setting, you’d miss the existing business called The Gopher Guy Inc. You can’t name your company “Gopher Guy LLC” if The Gopher Guy Inc. already exists.

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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Business Entity Search
Example of Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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.

When in doubt, call the Department of State

You can call the Pennsylvania Department of State to confirm that your LLC name is available.

Not all states offer this service, but the representatives in Pennsylvania will help you use the Pennsylvania Business Name Search and Name Availability Search to figure out whether your business name is available.

The Bureau of Corporations phone number is 717-787-1057. Then press option 5 for
Their hours are Monday through Friday, from 8am to 5pm Eastern Time.

Pennsylvania Limited Liability Company Name Requirements

As per Chapter 17 of the Pennsylvania Code Corporations Title and Chapter 2 of the Pennsylvania Statutes Corporations Title, there are a few rules and requirements for naming a Pennsylvania business entity that you need to know.

First, your LLC name can be in any language. But it must be written in Roman letters (the letters on a normal English keyboard). And you can use Roman numerals (like II for 2, or MM for 2000) and Arabic numerals.

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 Department 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 Pennsylvania.

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

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

  • Company
  • Limited
  • Limited Liability Company

You can also use an abbreviation of those designators, like these:

  • Co.
  • Ltd.
  • LLC
  • Ltd. Liability Co.
  • Ltd. Liability Company

The following designators are not allowed

Your Pennsylvania LLC can’t make itself sound like a Pennsylvania 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

What words are not allowed in my Pennsylvania LLC name?

Your Pennsylvania 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, a public utility or energy company, part of the government or a government agency, or anything else that misleads the public.

You also can’t use certain words without approval from the relevant agency.

You’ll need approval from the Department of Education to use any of these words:

  • college
  • university
  • seminary
  • annuity
  • assurance
  • beneficial
  • bond
  • casualty
  • endowment
  • fidelity
  • fraternal
  • guaranty
  • indemnity
  • insurance
  • insurer
  • reassurance
  • reinsurance
  • surety
  • title

And you’ll need approval from the Department of Insurance to use any of these words:

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, pharmacists (including words like “medicines”) and engineers.

For more information about restricted words for a Pennsylvania business entity, please see 19 Pa. Code 17.4 through 17.12 and 15 Pa. Stat. 202(c).

Your Pennsylvania business name must be distinguishable (unique)

When you search the Pennsylvania Bureau of Corporations 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 Raystown Races LLC, it’s not available to use if any of the following are found in the Pennsylvania Business Name Search results:

  • Raystown Races, Inc.
  • Raystown Races, Corp.
  • Raystown Races, L.L.C.

Filler Words

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

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

  • The Hemlock Farms LLC
  • A Hemlock Farm Inc.
  • Hemlock and Farms L.L.C.
  • Hemlock & Farms Corp

Plural or Singular Words and Possessive Words

Adding a letter “s” to make a word plural or possessive doesn’t create distinguishability.

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

  • Penns Hides LLC
  • Penn’s Hide Inc.
  • Penn Hides, Ltd. Liability Co

Geographic Words

Adding a geographic word (like “north” or a city name) doesn’t create distinguishability.

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

  • Laurels Corp.
  • Laurels North Inc.
  • Laurels Juniata Limited

Numerals or Number Words After the Name

If the business name is the same and followed by numerals (like 5 or 101) or number words (like “five” or “one hundred and one”), the names aren’t distinguishable.

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

  • Fireflies Ltd.
  • Fireflies 1 Inc.
  • Fireflies Two LLC
  • Fireflies 500 Corp.

What about a number at the beginning of the name?

It depends. The names might be distinguishable if the number is at the beginning of the name.

According to the PA Bureau of Corporations: Company 1 and Company 2 are easily confused because the only difference is the number at the end. But “100 Company” is distinguishable from Company 1, because the “100” is the first word you read in the business name.

Let’s keep using the example above. Instead of Fireflies 25 LLC, you could try Twenty-Five Fireflies LLC or 25 Fireflies LLC.

However, this comes down to the individual LLC Examiner that looks at your paperwork. They might not think that “25 Fireflies LLC” is different enough from the other business names.

What if my Pennsylvania business name is rejected?

If you file your Pennsylvania Certificate of Organization (the document that creates your Pennsylvania LLC) and the business name is not available, don’t panic. The state will notify you with a “Notice of Correction” and tell you why your filing was rejected.

You will just need to submit a variation of your LLC name or a different LLC name. If you re-file your Certificate of Organization within 30 days, you won’t have to pay the state fee again. If you wait longer than 30 days to refile, you have to start over and your filing fee won’t be refunded.

If you have any questions about your LLC name, we recommend you call the Bureau of Corporations at 717-787-1057 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 4:45pm).

Pennsylvania Business Name FAQs

Do I need a name reservation in Pennsylvania?

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

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

Does Pennsylvania require LLC in the name?

Yes. Your Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania LLC need a DBA?

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

A DBA (known as a Fictitious Name in Pennsylvania) lets your LLC conduct business under a name which is different from its true and legal name (the name on your Certificate 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 Fictitious Name Registration online or by mail. You’ll have to publish a notice about your LLC’s fictitious name, and you’ll pay an additional fee of $70 to the Bureau of Corporations. Check out the Department of State Fictitious Name Guide for more information on this process.

If you are going to file a Fictitious Name Registration for your Pennsylvania LLC, it must also be distinguishable from existing business names in the state.

There is no limit to the number of Fictitious 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 Great Dane Training Courses LLC, but you also want to use a friendlier, catchy name, like Dane Training. In this case, your LLC would need to file a Fictitious Name Registration to use the name Dane Training.

If you don’t file a Fictitious Name Registration for a different name, you can only use your legal entity name of Great Dane Training Courses LLC.

Note that in Pennsylvania, because fictitious names must be distinguishable, you can’t file for the fictitious name Great Dane Training Courses, just without the letters “LLC” in the name. That fictitious name isn’t distinguishable from the actual company name (Great Dane Training Courses 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 Department 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 Pocono Landscapers LLC. But there is already a business in another town called Pocono Landscapers, Inc. Because your desired LLC name is the same as that existing Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania entity?

No. You can’t use the same name as another Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania Department 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 Department of State.

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

How to start an LLC in Pennsylvania?

Here are the steps to starting an LLC in Pennsylvania:

  1. Choose an LLC name and make sure it’s available
  2. Choose who will be your Pennsylvania Registered Agent
  3. File the Pennsylvania LLC Certificate 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 Pennsylvania

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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28 comments on “Pennsylvania 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. This might be the most useful website I have ever used!!!
    Thank you so much for the handholding. Just what I needed to navigate name LLC name change!

    • Thanks so much Krista! You’re very welcome :-)

  2. Can you form LLC in Pennsylvania with name very similar to a company in a different state?

    • Yup, no issues there. In fact, you could form an LLC in Pennsylvania with the identical name of an LLC in another state. That is, assuming that business doesn’t have a federal trademark filed for their LLC/brand name. You can search the USPTO in that case to double-check.

      • Great. Appreciate it. Further grateful for LLC U! I cannot imagine the time saved due to your effort sir.

        • Do you think “eastern” is too similar to “northeast” , in say “eastern ice cream stand llc” , “northeast ice cream stand co”?

          • I think that may fall under “confusingly similar name” .

            • You’re very welcome Bobby! Thanks for the kind words :) It’s close, but I think it would pass. However, I can toss around some branding ideas with you if that would help. Which name is the one you want? And the business is ice cream I take it (or are these just dummy examples)?

                  • House cleaning service Matt. Pressure washing , softwashing.

                    • Thanks Bobby. So to comment on the original premise, if there’s an existing business called “Northeast Pressure Washing LLC”, you could form an LLC called “Eastern Pressure Washing Services LLC”. The “Northeast” vs “Eastern” is likely distinguishable enough, however, adding “Services” makes it even more distinguishable.

                      Some other things to consider… if you believe the business will always be local, you could include your town name. And “pressure washing” is a larger keyword on google compared to “soft washing”. So if you name your business “Hazleton Pressure Washing Pros”, you might get more business from online searches as opposed to “Eastern Soft Wash Company”. You could also just use the word “Cleaning” in your business name and then mention on your website that you offer pressure washing and soft washing.

                      Here’s some other ideas to think about: Keystone Cleaning Crew, Pristine Cleaning PA, Bloomsburg Pressure Wash Pros, Penn Pressure Washing Co, and Liberty Cleaning Services.

                      Also, you can use PA Fictitious Name(s) for marketing. For example, you can form an LLC called “Eastern PA Cleaning LLC”, but then have a Fictitious Name (DBA) called “Keystone Cleaning Crew”. Hopefully that all helps and gives you a few things to think about ;-)

  3. Matt,

    Any thoughts on using/not using an ampersand (&) instead of AND in a LLC business name?

    Your website is terrific! Thanks.

    • Thanks Ian! Personally I’d avoid it. However, it’s not strictly enforced most places, so you could bounce back and forth between using “and” and “&”.

  4. Thank so much Matt! That is a tremendous help. I have been researching and figuring out the terminology, slowly but surely. Your site has been extremely helpful. Thanks again!

  5. Hi Mark,
    Thanks so much for the quick response. I am considering naming my business The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery…spelling is correct :). I guess I am getting confused between the fictitious name and the LLC name. Would I set it up as, for example, Dan B LLC dba The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery? Thanks for all your help. What a great website this is!

    • Hi Dan, thanks for the kind words! You won’t have any issues getting that name approved even though there are other “ordinary” businesses filed ;) If you want to display your business name to the public but leave out the “LLC”, then you’d also want to register a Fictitious Name after the LLC is setup. If you’ll use the full legal name (The Ordynary Ice Cream Tavern and Eatery LLC), then there’s no need for a Fictitious Name. Hope that helps!

  6. My business is going to use a variation of the spelling of the word “ordinary.” I researched “ordinary” and found ten businesses using that word with several of them, in my opinion, being similar enough that they would be disallowed. That concerns me and/or confuses me. I guess my best bet is to contact the state and ask them?

    • Hi Dan, yes, I’d phone the Bureau of Corporations to be sure. Also, if you can provide me with your desired LLC name, I’ll run a search and let you know what I think. Thanks.

  7. How can I search to see if there is a specific llc name . I wanted to check if there is an llc with my wife’s name on it . How would I go about doing that

    • Hey Nicholas, I’d do two searched. First, enter your “wife’s first name” and search. Then, enter your “wife’s last name” and search again. You could also just search the full name too. Hope that helps!

  8. I cant see, to get this link to work. Do you have another link to search PA business names? I would like to use my existing business name. How would i do that? thank you

    • Hi John, the link is working. Can you try again with another web browser? Hope that helps.

      • That website for company name lookup still isn’t working on Chrome and Safari. Do they seriously only work on MSIE in this day and age where almost every website is agile enough across browsers? Did Yahoo purchase them or something?

        • Hey Chris, the whole PA Bureau of Corporations website is down today for maintenance. Just try again tomorrow. You can use in all browsers, too.

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