Definition of outstanding shares


Outstanding shares refer to the total number of shares held by all shareholders. This number starts at an essentially arbitrary value (such as 10 million) when the company is created, and thereafter will increase as new shares are added (issued) and granted to people in exchange for money or services.

Related terms

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Fundamentals of Stock Corporations β€Ί Stock and Shares

Outstanding shares may increase or decrease for other reasons too, such as stock splits and share buybacks, which we won’t get into here.

Later, we discuss several subtleties in how shares are counted.