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First, a charter can be defined broadly as the highest law of an entity. More specifically:

  • In corporate law, the articles of incorporation.
  • In public law, the instrument by which a municipality is incorporated (e.g., city charter). 
    • This type of charter includes the highest laws of the municipality and its organizational structure.
  • In legislative law, a government act that establishes a publicly funded business or undertaking.

Second, in popular usage, a charter is the lease of a bus, airplane, ship, or other usually large or expensive vehicle for transportation. 

  • A person who signs such a lease is said to charter the vehicle. 
  • The vehicle used under this agreement is said to be chartered.

See e.g., California School Boards Ass'n v. State Board of Education 186 Cal.App.4th 1298 (2010)

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]