Alternatively, title is the official name of a book, a work of art, an invention, or anything with an official name. Titles of people refer to designations of rank, profession, and/or honors awarded.
In the case of a vehicle, transfer of title is recorded by the state. On being advised that a vehicle has been sold, the state issues a new title. If a loan is involved and the lender takes a lien on the vehicle, the lien is recorded on the title and the lender holds the title.
In the case of a real estate purchase, the mortgage company will usually require a title search, usually performed by a title company. Title company searches the records of the recorder of deeds office in the county courthouse to find any documents that may address the property being sold. It is possible for creditors (or the IRS) to attach liens to real estate in an effort to collect. The previous mortgage holder will have a lien, unless the mortgage has been paid off, which would also be recorded in the recorder's office records. The title company finds all of these items and brings title documents up to date. In some states, title abstracts summarize the complete ownership history of the property. Finally, most lenders require title insurance, which insures against an undetected claim such as a long lost relative who claims to have inherited an interest in the property.
Finally, the title is transferred to the buyer at close and recorded in the recorder's office.