ISO 3166

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The ISO 3166 is a standard for the encoding of geographic units, published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

It consists of three parts for coding

  • current states and some dependent territories (ISO 3166-1),
  • government sub-units ( ISO 3166-2 ) and
  • former states ( ISO 3166-3 ).

The country codes can be looked up in the ISO 3166-1 coding list .

The ISO publishes the current coding lists on a website , on which changes are continuously updated. New print versions of the standard are published at irregular intervals in which the changes made up to that point are consolidated. Up until the 2013 versions were published, changes were distributed as newsletters .

The current versions of the ISO standard were published in 2013. The German Institute for Standardization developed the corresponding translations into German with DIN EN ISO 3166-1: 2014-10 .

At the beginning of 2019 a preliminary version of a new version was published with ISO / DIS 3166-1: 2019, which was published as a draft standard by the German Institute for Standardization in October 2019. The content of the revised International Standard was adopted in full, but the German language version was dispensed with. Only the terms and their definitions are translated into German. The list section has also been deleted; instead, reference is made to the ISO's online browsing platform and the corresponding official sources of the German country names for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

ISO 3166-1

Logo of the German Institute for Standardization DIN EN ISO 3166-1
Area Information and documentation
title Codes for the names of countries and their sub-units - Part 1: Codes for country names (ISO / DIS 3166-1: 2019)
Brief description: Country code
Latest edition 2019-10 (draft standard)
ISO 3166-1

The first part ( ISO 3166-1 ) lists since 1974 a. a. two- (ALPHA-2) and three-letter (ALPHA-3) country codes. Countries are marked with capital letters. The two-letter abbreviations are used, among other things, as a top-level domain identifier for states (e.g. .de , .ch , .us ) - with the exception of the United Kingdom , for which ukwas gbused.

The ALPHA-2 codes also form the first two characters for the currency codes according to ISO 4217 .

They are also used in the international bank account number (IBAN), in ISO 7372 , ISO 9375 , ISO / IEC 7501-1 (standard for machine-readable travel documents), the UN / LOCODE and the WIPO standard ST.3.

AA, ZZ and the areas QM – QZ and XA – XZ are reserved for private use.

Numerical codes

In addition to the two codings using “Latin” letters , three-digit codes from “Arabic numerals” are also used. As early as the 1960s - long before ISO - today's UN statistical department , the UNSD , had introduced these codes, which were adopted unchanged in ISO 3166.

Each coding corresponds exactly to one territorial area. If a state area changes due to division or amalgamation, the new territories also receive new codes. If, on the other hand, only the name of the state changes, the numerical code and sometimes even the alpha-2 code remain unchanged.


  • Until 1990: Federal Republic of Germany = 280, West Berlin = 284; in addition GDR = 278as well as East Berlin = 282.
    From 1990, all together: 276.
    The coding DEfor (West) Germany , however, did not change.
    Note the far-sighted area reserved from the start 276, 278, 280, 282, 284.
  • Ethiopia was 230coded with until 1993 . After splitting off from Eritrea (code 232), the remaining Ethiopia received the coding 231.
  • Burma was renamed Myanmar . The national territory did not change, it remained the same 104. However, the alpha-2 code changed from BUto MM.
  • Swaziland renamed itself Eswatini in 2018 . The alpha-2 code SZand the numeric code 748were retained.

The original sequence formed alphabetically the names of the states at that time (in English) or summarized regionally related structures - such as island groups or the example mentioned DE . As a rule, even numbers between 002and are initially 898assigned. If sub-areas are inserted, the closest (if necessary, odd) number is used, as is the case with the names of newly formed states.

As they are not used by the UN for the time being, codes 000 and 900–999 can be assigned custom meanings at your own risk.

The advantage of the digits is that they are also used in many non-Latin scripts, such as the Greek , Cyrillic , Hebrew , Chinese or Japanese script. This means that statistical tables can be read there in which the legend, states and dates are indicated by digits. However, it is precisely the Arabic script that does not use what we call “Arabic” numerals.

Geographical (ISO 3166) and linguistic (ISO 639) classification

Unlike the standard, the country coding is often given in lower case letters. This can lead to confusion with the ISO-639 language codes, which often, but not always, encode the most widely spoken language in this country. DE/ destand for Germany / German, FR/ frstand for France / French, but BE / bestand for Belgium / Belarusian (Belarus).

While ISO 3166 describes the geographical classification, ISO 639 defines the linguistic classification.

  • For example, the geographical division for Greece is GR while the linguistic division for the Greek language el is.
  • The abbreviation EU/ eustands on the one hand for the geographical division of the European Union , on the other hand for the linguistic division of the Basque language .
  • The abbreviation AF/ afstands for Afghanistan on the one hand , and the Afrikaans language on the other .

The division into geography and language still makes sense: For example, German is not only spoken in Germany and French is not only spoken in France; there are also countries that have more than one official language (e.g. Switzerland) or a language that is named after another country (e.g. Brazil with Portuguese).

In combination with the language code according to ISO 639 for Languages declared the 5646 RFC , the specification of language abbreviations , as they for Locales used for. B. en_US(English language in United States Territory; American) as opposed to en_GB(English language in United Kingdom; British). The language abbreviations are symbolized here by lower case letters, the countries by upper case letters.

In addition to the underscore (Engl. Underscore ) often comes as a separator, the hyphen is used. Locales not only define a national language or regional language, but are also used for localization .

Historical newsletters

The version from 2006 (ISO 3166-1: 2006) summarized all changes up to newsletter V-12. Before the publication of ISO 3166-1: 2013, the following newsletters were issued:

Edition newsletter Release date Changes
VI-1 (PDF; 264 kB) September 21, 2007 Changes in the French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Saint Martin
VI-2 (PDF) March 31, 2008 Change of name of Montenegro and Moldova
VI-3 (PDF; 269 kB) September 9, 2008 Change of name of Nepal , change of official languages ​​of Greenland , Guernsey and Moldova
VI-4 (PDF; 211 kB) January 7, 2009 Change of name of Moldova , change of the official languages ​​of the Central African Republic and the Comoros
VI-5 (PDF; 195 kB) March 3, 2009 Change of name of Venezuela , change of the official languages ​​of Kiribati and Tuvalu
VI-6 (PDF; 164 kB) May 8, 2009 Change of name of Bolivia
VI-7 (PDF; 245 kB) February 22, 2010 Change of name of Saint Helena
VI-8 (PDF; 377 kB) December 15, 2010 Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles
VI-9 (PDF; 184 kB) June 12, 2011
(corrected July 14, 2011)
Name change from Fiji and Myanmar , corrections
VI-10 (PDF; 162 kB) August 9, 2011 Founding of South Sudan
VI-11 (PDF; 137 kB) November 8, 2011 Change of name of Libya
VI-12 (PDF; 395 kB) February 15, 2012 Change of name of Hungary , corrections
VI-13 (PDF; 155 kB) 2nd August 2012 Name change of Eritrea , corrections
VI-14 (PDF; 176 kB) February 6, 2013 Change of name of Palestine , corrections
VI-15 (PDF) May 10, 2013 Change of name of Papua New Guinea
VI-16 (PDF) July 11th 2013 Change of name from Somalia

ISO 3166-2

A more recent standard ISO 3166-2 defines short forms for the subdivisions of countries or dependent areas. For example, in the case of Germany, these are the federal states . The country code (e.g. DE) is followed by the ISO-3166-2 variant code. This is added to the country code, separated by a hyphen (e.g. DE-BYfor the state of Bavaria ).

ISO 3166-3

Logo of the German Institute for Standardization DIN ISO 3166-3
Area Information and documentation
title Codes for names of countries and their sub-units - Part 3: Code for previously used country names (ISO 3166-3: 2013)
Brief description: Country code
Latest edition 2015-03
ISO 3166-3

Since 1974, ISO 3166-3 has mapped all countries that no longer exist or whose abbreviations have changed due to significant changes in the country name (e.g. due to mergers of countries or divisions).

See also


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Online Browsing Platform
  2. Draft standard - DIN EN ISO 3166-1 - Codes for the names of countries and their sub-units - Part 1: Codes for country names (ISO / DIS 3166-1: 2019). In: DIN standards committee for information and documentation (NID). DIN, October 2019, accessed on December 31, 2019 .
  3. UN Statistical Department: Coding