A limousine (or limo) was originally an “enclosed automobile with open driver’s seat,” and was named from the French limousine (in the Occitan language) that was originally an adjective referring to a region in central France. The automobile meaning evolving from a type of cloak and hood that was worn by the inhabitants of the Limousin region that later resembled the covering of a carriage and much later used to describe an automobile body with a permanent top that extended over the open driver’s compartment.
The term now refers to a luxury sedan or saloon car, especially one with a lengthened wheelbase or driven by a chauffeur. The chassis of a limousine may have been extended by the manufacturer or by an independent coach builder. These are called “stretch” limousines and are traditionally black or white. Limousines are usually liveried vehicles, driven by professional chauffeurs. As the most expensive form of automobile ground transportation, limousines are culturally associated with extreme wealth or power and are commonly cited as examples of conspicuous consumption. Among the less wealthy, limousines are often hired during special events (most commonly weddings, proms, and bachelor parties).
While some limousines are owned by individuals, many are owned by governments to transport senior politicians, by large companies to transport executives, and by broadcasters to transport guests. Most stretch limousines, however, operate as livery vehicles, providing upmarket competition to taxicabs. Builders of stretch limousines purchase stock cars from manufacturers and modify them, and most are in the United States and Europe and cater mainly to limousine companies. Few stretch limousines are sold new to private individuals. In addition to luxuries, security features such as armoring and bulletproof glass are available.