A class of ownership in a corporation that has a higher claim on the assets and earnings than common stock. Preferred stock generally has a dividend that must be paid out before dividends to common stockholders and the shares usually do not have voting rights.
The precise details as to the structure of preferred stock is specific to each corporation. However, the best way to think of preferred stock is as a financial instrument that has characteristics of both debt (fixed dividends) and equity (potential appreciation). Also known as “preferred shares”. (Source: InvestOpedia)
Preferred stock (also called preferred shares, preference shares, or simply preferreds) is a component of share capital that may have any combination of features not possessed by common stock, including properties of both an equity and a debt instrument, and is generally considered a hybrid instrument. Preferred stocks are senior (i.e., higher ranking) to common stock but subordinate to bonds in terms of claim (or rights to their share of the assets of the company) and may have priority over common stock (ordinary shares) in the payment of dividends and upon liquidation. Terms of the preferred stock are described in the issuing company's articles of association or articles of incorporation.
Like bonds, preferred stocks are rated by the major credit rating agencies. The rating for preferred stocks is generally lower than for bonds because preferred dividends do not carry the same guarantees as interest payments from bonds and because preferred-stock holders' claims are junior to those of all creditors.