AskDefine | Define charter

Dictionary Definition



1 a document incorporating an institution and specifying its rights; includes the articles of incorporation and the certificate of incorporation
2 a contract to hire or lease transportation


1 hold under a lease or rental agreement; of goods and services [syn: rent, hire, lease]
2 grant a charter to
3 engage for service under a term of contract; "We took an apartment on a quiet street"; "Let's rent a car"; "Shall we take a guide in Rome?" [syn: lease, rent, hire, engage, take]

User Contributed Dictionary




From chartre, from chartula (diminutif of charta).


  1. a document issued by some authority, creating a public or private institution, and defining its purposes and privileges
  2. a similar document conferring rights and privileges on a person, corporation etc
  3. a contract for the commercial leasing of a vessel, or space on a vessel
  4. the temporary hiring or leasing of a vehicle
  5. a deed



  1. leased or hired



  1. to grant or establish a charter
  2. to lease or hire something by charter

See also




From charter.


fr-noun m
  1. a charter flight
  2. a charter plane
  3. a charter pilot

Extensive Definition

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. 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.

Feudal usage

Charters were the fundamental documents of the highly-structured, hierarchical system of Western feudalism. They were the instruments by which the possessor of a fiefdom (the lord) granted rights to vassals. This was typically for land, but might include anything, such as the right to incorporate a town or university, the right to hold a weekly market, or even the right to levy a toll on a road or bridge. There might be a payment specified or constraints applied, or the grant might be outright.

Inter regalia

At the top of the feudal hierarchy was a monarch whose inherent possessions were termed inter regalia (from inter, 'among' and regalia, 'things of the king'). This might include property, privileges, or prerogatives, of which there were two kinds:
  • regalia major ('major regalia') - things which are inseparable from the monach, such as the royal crown.
  • regalia minor ('lesser regalia') - things which may be conveyed to a subject. The monarch might grant a charter for any regalia minor.


Once a grant was received, its value might be divided repeatedly in succession, each documented in a charter. Thus, a monarch might grant a large section of land to someone of the upper nobility (who was the vassal of the monarch), who might then subdivide the land among several of the lesser nobility (who were vassals to the upper nobility), who might then subdivide their sections of land among several tenants (who were vassals to the lesser nobility). At each stage, the granter might attach conditions, such as requirements for military service, or payment of an annual duty.

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.
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.


charter in Bosnian: Povelja
charter in German: Charta
charter in French: Charte
charter in Croatian: Povelja
charter in Norwegian: Charter
charter in Quechua: Karta
charter in Russian: устав
charter in Urdu: چارٹر

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

OK, accredit, admission, agreement, allowance, approve, assign, authority, authorize, bareboat charter, brevet, certificate, certify, charge, commission, commit, compact, concession, consent, consign, contract, conveyance, covenant, deed, delegate, depute, deputize, detach, detail, devolute, devolve, devolve upon, diploma, diplomatic immunity, discharge, dispensation, document, empower, enable, enfranchise, engage, entitle, entrust, exception, exemption, farm, farm out, franchise, give in charge, give official sanction, give power, grant, hire, hire out, hiring, immunity, job, lease, lease out, lease-back, lease-lend, leave, legalize, legislative immunity, legitimize, lend-lease, let, let off, let out, letters patent, liberty, license, mission, okay, patent, permission, permission to enter, permit, post, privilege, qualify, ratify, recognize, release, rent, rent out, rental, right, royal grant, sanction, send out, special permission, sublease, sublet, subrent, ticket, ticket of admission, transfer, underlet, validate, vouchsafement, waiver, warrant
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