Bankruptcy is not the only legal status that an insolvent person may have, and the term bankruptcy is therefore not a synonym for insolvency. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, bankruptcy is limited to individuals; other forms of insolvency proceedings (such as liquidation and administration) are applied to companies. In the United States, bankruptcy is applied more broadly to formal insolvency proceedings. In France, the cognate French word banqueroute is used solely for cases of fraudulent bankruptcy, whereas the term faillite (cognate of "failure") is used for bankruptcy in accordance with the law.
The word bankruptcy is derived from Italian banca rotta, meaning "broken bank", which may stem from a widespread custom in the Republic of Genoa of breaking a moneychanger's bench or counter to signify his insolvency, or which may be only a figure of speech.