Stock Ticker Symbols: What is a stock ticker?

Definition of ‘Ticker Symbol’

A stock ticker symbol is a set of characters (usually letters) representing a particular security that is publicly traded and listed on a stock exchange.

When a company issues stock to the public, it selects an available ticker symbol for its stock. The ticker symbol is basically a short code for investors/traders to get a quote on that particular stock and is used to place buy or sell orders.

Every company listed on a stock exchange has its own unique ticker symbol. For example the ticker symbol of Apple Inc. is AAPL.

More On Ticker Symbols


If you’ve followed the stock market, you have probably noticed that companies that trade on the stock exchange use symbols.

These symbols, called the ticker symbol, are a short abbreviation/acronym used to uniquely identify the particular stock of a publicly traded company in the stock market. Depending on the country, a stock symbol may consist of letters, numbers or a combination of both. The stock exchanges in the USA use letters.

Stock ticker symbols serve a variety of purposes:

  • it identifies a particular company trading on the stock exchange
  • investors uses the ticker symbol to place trade orders
  • for investors to look up the current quote of a particular stock
  • it typically identifies which exchange the stock trades on (not always though)

The Origin of “Ticker”

The term “ticker symbol” dates back to the early days of the stock market and originally referred to the symbols that were printed on the ticker tape of a ticker tape machine. Ticker tapes were basically stamped stock price data onto thin strips of rolled paper and when these noisy machines were running they made a very distinct ticking noise during their busiest periods, which is how tickers eventually earned their name.

U.S. Stock Market Symbols

The US stock exchanges uses letters for ticker symbols. In other stock exchanges in some countries they might use numbers, letters or a combo of both, it all depends on the country.

New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) ticker symbols

Stocks listed on the NYSE have three or less characters, but the majority on the NYSE either have one or two letter symbols.

NYSE Ticker Symbol Examples

Ticker Symbol Company
C Citigroup
KO Coca-Cola Company
V Visa Inc.

NASDAQ stock ticker symbols

Companies listed on the NASDAQ typically have four letters.

NASDAQ Ticker Symbol Examples

Ticker Symbol Company
AAPL Apple Inc.
GOOG Google
MSFT Microsoft.

What Else You Should Know About Ticker Symbols

Ticker Symbol Extensions

Sometimes an extra letter or an extension is added behind some ticker symbols. These extensions or extra letters are a special code and have a meaning, which categorizes the investment.

For example, some listed companies might issue two share classes, or classes of stock, designated as Class A and Class B. These different classes of stock may have an extra identifier added after a period and may say “.A” or “.B”

If a ticker symbol has letters added to it such as .PK, .OB or .OTCBB, this means the stock doesn’t trade on an exchange, but rather it trades in the over-the-counter market. More specifically, a .PK indicates that a stock is now trading on the pink sheets, while an .OB suffix or .OTCBB prefix represents the over-the-counter bulletin board.

Also, an extra letter at the end of a ticker symbol can also mean something is wrong with the company. For example, if a “Q” has been added, this means that a company is in bankruptcy proceedings, and “E” means the company is late on its SEC filings.

Below is a list of fifth symbols on the Nasdaq and what they mean:

A – Class A
B – Class B
D – New issue or reverse split
E – Delinquent in required filings with the SEC
F – Foreign
M – Fourth class of preferred shares
N – Third class preferred of preferred shares
O – Second class preferred of preferred shares
P – First class preferred of preferred shares
Q – Bankruptcy proceedings
X – Mutual Fund