An abbreviation used in Spain and Portugal, and also in several French-speaking countries in Europe,1 to designate a Sociedad Anónima ("soh-thia-DAHD ah-NO-nee-ma") in Spain, a Sociedade Anónima ("so-chya-DAD-eh ah-NOH-nee-ma") in Portugal, or a Société Anonyme (soh-see-eh-teh ah-noh-neem) in several French-Speaking countries in Europe. The term is synonymous in all European countries which use it; an S.A. is the practical equivalent of a Corporation. The "S.A." that appears after many European company names, therefore, is roughly synonymous with "Inc."

An example of usage would be:

El Corte Inglés, S.A.
where "El Corte Inglés" is the traditional name of the company.

An S.A. is a legal entity whose existence is distinct from the person or persons who own the company. Sociedad Anónima and its cousin phrases correspond straightforwardly with their English cognates, and so, the phrase would literally translate as "Anonymous Society". It is the above distinction between the owner and the company that is referred to by the word Anónimo/(AnónimaAnonyme) in the full phrase. As for the cognate of "society", think liberally to see the connection between a "society" and a "company"; basically, a group of people banded together with a common welfare interest.

The rights, responsibilities, and nature of European S.A.'s are not significantly different than those of a Corporation2 in any other country. Elsewhere on E2, you can read about other types of Business Organizations.

1. Credit noders Senso and Albert Herring for pointing out the information about non-Spanish countries.

2. I use the layman's term here, which does not necessarily have the same exact meaning as the legal term, though it may be very close in meaning.

Sources: and