In the securities world, the term "Hedge Fund" does not necessarily imply any use of "hedging" as commonly understood; for example where commodity traders use options to "hedge" a commodity position.
Presently, in the securities world the term "hedge fund" refers to any type of Private Investment Company operating under certain exemptions from registration under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Investment Company Act of 1940.
"Hedge Funds" are often referred to as "alternative investment vehicles" and are tailored to the needs of sophisticated, high net worth private investors. A Hedge Fund is generally structured as a limited partnership having a general partner responsible for the investment activities and day-to-day operation of the fund, and limited partners who are the investors supplying capital but not participating in trading or operations of the fund.
The limited partners have limited liability. That is, their exposure to loss is limited to their investment. The General Partner has unlimited liability and is liable for the activities of the partnership. The General Partners principals limit their liability through the use of a corporation or limited liability company as the General Partner. (Of course, the principals cannot limit their liability from the application of the anti fraud provisions of the Federal Securities Laws.) All of the investors' capital is pooled and is utilized by the General Partner or Investment Manager to implement its trading or investment strategy.