Canton (Switzerland)

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Kanton Wallis Kanton Thurgau Kanton Appenzell Innerrhoden Kanton Appenzell Ausserrhoden Kanton Schaffhausen Kanton Obwalden Kanton Nidwalden Kanton Basel-Stadt Kanton Basel-Landschaft Kanton Solothurn Kanton Zug Kanton Zürich Kanton St. Gallen Kanton Aargau Kanton Luzern Kanton Glarus Kanton Schwyz Kanton Uri Kanton Tessin Kanton Jura Kanton Graubünden Kanton Neuenburg Kanton Genf Kanton Freiburg Kanton Waadt Kanton Waadt Kanton Bern Frankreich Liechtenstein Österreich Italien Deutschland Deutschland
The 26 Swiss cantons

The 26 cantons ( French cantons, Italian cantoni, Romansh chantuns, in German Switzerland traditionally also state , in the plural objects , respectively, in the Romandie also état called) are the constituent states of the Swiss Confederation . The term canton was first used in 1475 in a Freiburg file.

Political system

Each canton has its own constitution and its own legislative , executive and judicial authorities. All cantons have a unicameral parliament (Grand Council, Cantonal Council, District Administrator, Parliament; see also: Cantonal Parliament ). Depending on the canton, this has 49 to 180 parliamentary seats. The cantonal government (government council, government, state council, professional ethics committee) consists of five or seven members, depending on the canton. In each canton there is a two-tier court system (first instance: district court , district court, cantonal court, district court, regional court, regional court, criminal court, civil court; second instance: higher court , cantonal court, appellate court), preceded by an arbitration authority (justice of the peace, mediation office).

All government areas that are not assigned to the Confederation by the Swiss Federal Constitution or regulated by a federal law belong to the competence of the cantons, for example cantonal state and administrative organization law, school system, social assistance, building law, police, notarial system, cantonal and communal tax law, to a large extent also health care, planning law, court constitution and others. Both the federal government and the cantons have competencies in many areas. Cantons, like the German states, are derivative subjects of international law and, within their competences, can conclude state treaties with one another (so-called concordats ) or with foreign states.

For their part, the cantons grant their communes a certain degree of autonomy . This tends to be greater in eastern Switzerland than in western Switzerland.

In two cantons - Glarus and Appenzell Innerrhoden - the people pass cantonal laws at a meeting of all citizens, the rural community . In the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, the members of the cantonal government and the cantonal courts are also elected at the Landsgemeinde. In all other cantons, elections and votes take place at the ballot box.


Word origin and other designations

The term "canton" for a member of the Confederation is first recorded in 1475 or 1467 from Friborg. Since cantone in Northern Italy has stood for "part of the country" since the 11th century, Walther von Wartburg assumes that the word was brought to what is now western Switzerland by Lombard merchants, where it was then adopted as a canton in German and as canton in French. Italian cantone is an enlarged form of canto, which means "corner, edge, angle, piece, part". Canto, on the other hand, comes from the Latin canthus "iron wheel tire", which in turn was perhaps originally a Celtic word.

Before and next to the word canton - this became more and more popular in German-speaking Switzerland from the 17th century and became official in 1798 - there were and are several other names for the members of the Swiss Confederation.

  • The earliest official name was "Stett and Lender". To this day, land has been preserved in some cantons as “ Landsgemeinde ”, “Landrat”, “ Landammann ”, “Land (es) statthalter”, “Landschreiber”, “Landgericht”, “Landesarchiv” or “Landesbibliothek”.
  • "Place", a comprehensive term for "cities" and "countries", was first found in 1426 in a Zurich council resolution. It lives on in the historical terms " eight-member " and " thirteen-member Confederation ".
  • “Stand” (French état ) emerged as a neutral term for “city” and “country” in the 16th century and reached its peak in use in the 18th century. Nowadays the word sounds archaic, but can be found in combinations such as “more of the estates” and “ council of states ” at the federal level as well as in the “ethics commission”, the “booth chancellery”, the “state president” and the “state woman” in the official language Cantons.
  • «State» (French also état ) is the Latin-derived counterpart to state . It was not used more broadly for the cantons until after 1800 and is now used in numerous terms such as "public prosecutor", "state archive", "state contribution", "state chancellery", "state staff", "state council", "state clerk", "state tax", " Staatsstrasse ”or“ Staatsweibel ”are common.

Old Confederation

The so-called original cantons which the Federal Charter of 1291 are said to have founded the Confederation are the Waldstätte Uri , Schwyz and Unterwalden . In the Old Confederation , the cantons were often called places . Therefore, in relation to the expansion phases of Switzerland, one speaks of the eight old places and the thirteen old places (or the eight-place and thirteen-place confederation). Allies who were not full members of the Confederation were designated as facing places . The full members and even more so the places facing the Confederation were still independent states.


With the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803) the term canton got a heavier use. In the newly created unitary state, however, the cantons were mere administrative districts without rights of autonomy. The demarcation was changed in order to create cantons of approximately the same size and to smash the old order. This also resulted in the short-lived cantons of Säntis , Linth , Waldstätte , Oberland , Baden , Lugano and Bellinzona , and from 1802 the canton of Fricktal for one year .

Mediation, restoration, regeneration

With the mediation constitution of 1803, the number of cantons increased to 19 and with the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to 22. Related places such as the Republic of Gersau , the area of Engelberg Abbey and others were added to individual cantons against their will. In 1833, the canton of Basel-Landschaft split off from the canton of Basel-Stadt in an armed conflict , and at the same time the canton of Ausserschwyz split from the center of Schwyz (but this did not last). The last traces of the territorial assignments of the Congress of Vienna so far were cleared democratically in 1979 with the establishment of the canton of Jura and in 1994 with the transfer of the Bernese district of Laufen to the canton of Basel-Landschaft, both of which were split off from the canton of Bern ; the future of the Bernese Jura could lead to changes again.

State of 1848

When a federal state was founded in 1848 , the sovereignty of the cantons was restricted, and areas such as foreign policy, customs, currency and postal services came under federal authority. With industrialization and economic growth, state life became increasingly complex, which made further centralization necessary and led to the unification of substantive law in areas such as civil law, criminal law, commercial and economic law. Today the areas in which the cantons can really still legislate autonomously are fairly limited. There is increasing talk of «enforcement federalism».

Admission of new cantons

The enlargement of Switzerland through the inclusion of further areas as cantons ended in 1815, since then there have only been changes to the area between the cantons and in 1978 the canton of Jura was founded by splitting off from the canton of Bern .

After the end of the Habsburg monarchy , efforts were made to include the Austrian state of Vorarlberg as a canton in Switzerland. The referendum in Vorarlberg in 1919 showed that a majority of a good 80 percent of Vorarlbergers was in favor of joining Switzerland. However, the project failed because of the hesitant policy of the (provisional) Vorarlberg state assembly and the Swiss Federal Council , which did not want to imbalance the carefully balanced relationship between the languages ​​of Switzerland and the denominations in Switzerland by adding an additional canton with German-speaking Catholics , as well as the peace treaties with the Entente .

In 2010, Dominique Baettig , a member of the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) in the National Council , called for a legal framework to allow regions bordering Switzerland to join Switzerland as additional cantons. The Federal Council rejected this, as such a decree would constitute an unfriendly political act that neighboring states could perceive as a provocation.



Today the number of cantons is given as 26, sometimes as 23. The reason is that six cantons ( Obwalden , Nidwalden , Appenzell Innerrhoden , Appenzell Ausserrhoden , Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft ) are still sometimes referred to as half-cantons for historical reasons . Since the complete revision of the Federal Constitution in 1999, they have been regarded as cantons with half a professional vote. This distinction is only relevant for the composition of the Council of States and for the number of estates and has no influence on internal autonomy.


The official order of the cantons (see list below ), as it appears in Article 1 of the Federal Constitution, goes back to the time before the founding of the federal state. The three suburbs from the period between 1815 and 1848 are named first , followed by the other cantons in the order in which they joined.

Tables and lists

List of Swiss cantons with their key data

Abbr. Canton Canton
main place
population 1 Area
Members of the
Council of States
Official language
ZH Canton ZurichCanton Zurich Zurich 01 1351 Zurich 1,520,968 1728.94 2 880 German
BE Canton BernCanton Bern Bern 02 1353 Bern 1,034,977 5959.51 2 174 German French
LU Canton lucerneCanton lucerne Lucerne 03 1332 Lucerne 409,557 1493.52 2 274 German
UR Canton of UriCanton of Uri Uri 04 7 1291 Altdorf 36'433 1076.54 2 34 German
SZ Canton of SchwyzCanton of Schwyz Schwyz 05 7 1291 Schwyz 159'165 907.88 2 175 German
OW Canton of ObwaldenCanton of Obwalden Obwalden 06 7 1291 Sarnen 37,841 490.58 1 77 German
NW Canton of NidwaldenCanton of Nidwalden Nidwalden 07 7 1291 Stans 43'223 275.85 1 157 German
GL Canton of GlarusCanton of Glarus Glarus 08 1352 Glarus 40,403 685.31 2 59 German
ZG Canton of ZugCanton of Zug train 09 1352 train 126,837 238.73 2 531 German
FR Canton of FriborgCanton of Friborg Freiburg 10 1481 Freiburg 318,714 1671.42 2 191 French German
SO Canton of SolothurnCanton of Solothurn Solothurn 11 1481 Solothurn 273,194 790.45 2 346 German
BS Canton of Basel-StadtCanton of Basel-Stadt Basel city 12 1501 Basel 194,766 36.95 1 5271 German
BL Canton of Basel-CountryCanton of Basel-Country Basel-Country 13 1501 Liestal 288,132 517.67 1 557 German
SH Canton of SchaffhausenCanton of Schaffhausen Schaffhausen 14th 1501 Schaffhausen 81,991 298.42 2 275 German
AR Canton of Appenzell AusserrhodenCanton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell Ausserrhoden 15th 1513 Herisau , Trogen 5 55'234 242.84 1 227 German
AI Canton of Appenzell InnerrhodenCanton of Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell Innerrhoden 16 1513 Appenzell 16'145 172.48 1 94 German
SG Canton of St. GallenCanton of St. Gallen St. Gallen 17th 1803 St. Gallen 507,697 2028.20 2 250 German
GR canton of Grisonscanton of Grisons Grisons 18th 1803 Chur 198,379 7105.30 2 28 German, Romansh, Italian
AG Kanton AargauKanton Aargau Aargau 19th 1803 Aarau 685,424 1403.80 2 488 German
TG Canton of ThurgauCanton of Thurgau Thurgau 20th 1803 Frauenfeld 276,472 994.33 2 278 German
TI Canton of TicinoCanton of Ticino Ticino 21st 1803 Bellinzona 353,343 2812.16 2 126 Italian
VD Canton of VaudCanton of Vaud Vaud 22nd 1803 Lausanne 799,145 3212.02 2 249 French
VS Canton of ValaisCanton of Valais Valais 23 1815 Manners 343,955 5224.63 2 66 French German
NE Canton of NeuchâtelCanton of Neuchâtel Neuchâtel 24 1815 Neuchâtel 176,850 802.16 2 220 French
GE Canton of GenevaCanton of Geneva Geneva 25th 1815 Geneva 499,480 282.49 2 1768 French
JU Canton of JuraCanton of Jura law 26th 1979 Delémont 73'419 838.51 2 88 French
CH Federal coat of arms Swiss Confederation 7 1291 Bern
( federal city )
8,551,744 41,290.69 46 207 German (63.7%),
French (20.4%),
Italian (6.5%),
Romansh  (0.5%)
1 Population with different data (based on data from both the cantons and the federal government)
2Registered foreigners without Swiss citizenship in percent according to the State Secretariat for Migration SEM (status: 2015-12-31)
3Unemployment rate according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO (status: 2015-12-31)
4th Inhabitants per square kilometer (population density)
5The cantonal constitution does not define a capital. The seat of the government and parliament of the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden is in Herisau ; The judiciary and police are based in Trogen .
6th The number of parish holdings is based on several data.
7thAccession of the original cantons in 1291, provided that the federal letter of 1291 is accepted as the foundation of Switzerland.

The two-letter abbreviations Canton ( abbreviations ) are common, they include for vehicle license plates are required and in the ISO 3166-2: CH (with the prefix "CH-", for example, CH-SZ for the canton of Schwyz).

Canton names in the Swiss official languages ​​and in dialect

The names of the cantons are given in the spelling and the official order as they can be found in Article 1 of the Federal Constitution. The names in the respective official languages ​​in the official full name form are highlighted. The names in Swiss German are not binding, as there is no official spelling for them. In the following, the dialect wording is given for wholly or partially German-speaking cantons that applies in the respective regional dialect.

ISO Canton
German French Italian Romansh Swiss German
ZH 1 Canton Zurich Zurich Zurigo Turitg Züri
BE 2 Canton Bern Canton de Berne Berna Berna Bear
LU 3 Canton lucerne Lucerne Lucerna Lucerna Lozäärn
UR 4th Canton of Uri Uri Uri Uri Üüri, Ürnerland
SZ 5 Canton of Schwyz Schwyz (Schwytz *) ) Svitto Sviz Schwyz
OW 6th Canton of Obwalden Obwald Obvaldo Sursilvania Obwaldä
NW 7th Canton of Nidwalden Nidwald Nidvaldo Sutsilvania Nidwaldä, Nidwaudä
GL 8th Canton of Glarus Glaris Glarona Glaruna Glaris, Glarnerland
ZG 9 Canton of Zug Zoug Zugo train Zùùg
FR 10 State of Freiburg Etat de Friborg Friburgo Friburg Frybùrg
SO 11 Canton of Solothurn Soleure Soletta Soloturn Soledurn
BS 12 Canton of Basel-Stadt Bâle-Ville Basilea Città Basilea Citad Baaselstadt
BL 13 Canton of Basel-Country Bâle Campagne Basilea Campagna Basilea Champagna Baaselbiet
SH 14th Canton of Schaffhausen Schaffhouse Sciaffusa Sheepusa Sheepfoot
AR 15th Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell Rhodes Extérieures Appenzello Esterno Appenzell Dadora Appezäll Osserode
AI 16 Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures Appenzello Interno Appenzell Dadens Appezöll Innerode
SG 17th Canton of St. Gallen Saint Gall San Gallo Son Gagl Sanggale
GR 18th canton of Grisons Grisons Cantone dei Grigioni Chantun Grischun Graubünda, Bündnerland
AG 19th Kanton Aargau Argovie Argovia Argovia Aargou, Aargau, Aargöi
TG 20th Canton of Thurgau Thurgovie Turgovia Turgovia Tùùrgi, Tùùrgau
TI 21st Canton of Ticino Ticino Repubblica e Cantone Ticino Ticino Ticino
VD 22nd Canton of Vaud Canton de Vaud Vaud Vad Wadt
VS 23 Canton of Valais État du Valais Vallese Vallais Valais
NE 24 Canton of Neuchâtel République et Canton de Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Nöieburg, Nüüeburg
GE 25th Canton of Geneva République et Canton de Genève Ginevra Genevra Gämf, Gänf
JU 26th Canton of Jura République et Canton du Jura Giura Giura law
*)The spelling with tz is used by the Guide du Typographe romand and is therefore frequently encountered (so that the «z» is not pronounced as a voiced s without the initial t, as it should be without a t according to French pronunciation rules).

Former cantons



Colloquial use

Inland cantons are those cantons that do not border on other countries. Switzerland has eleven inland cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Bern (since the Bern district of Laufen changed to the canton of Basel-Landschaft in 1994), Freiburg, Glarus, Lucerne, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz, Uri and Zug. Nidwalden and Obwalden are surrounded exclusively by inland cantons.

"Canton" is used jokingly for other countries and organizations.

  • Big Canton stands for Germany. The term comes from the second half of the 19th century and at that time referred to the heavy immigration from Germany. Among other things, it was used for the film The Great Canton .
  • 27. Canton stands

See also


  • Andreas Auer : Constitutional law of the Swiss cantons. Stämpfli-Verlag, Bern 2016. ISBN 978-3-7272-3217-6 .
  • Andreas Kley: Cantons. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  • Kurt Müller (Ed.): Building blocks of Switzerland. Portraits of the 26 cantons . Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 1987. ISBN 3-85823-178-9 .
  • (Various authors :) The Swiss cantons under the microscope. Authorities, personnel, finances. Haupt Verlag, Bern 2005. ISBN 978-3-258-06887-9 .
  • Stefan Rieder, Thomas Widmer: Cantons in Transition. Reform activities of the Swiss cantons between 1990 and 1999: causes, structure and consequences (from the series: Public Management). Haupt Verlag, Bern 2007. ISBN 978-3-258-07249-4 .
  • Switzerland and its 26 cantons. A (differentiated) country study in regions, traditions and coats of arms . Verlag Bär, Niederuzwil 2007. ISBN 978-3-9523212-0-1 (study book) or ISBN 978-3-9523212-1-8 (paperback).

Web links

Wiktionary: Canton  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Wilhelm Oechsli : The names of the old Confederation and its members. In: Yearbook for Swiss History 41, 1916, pp. 51–230 ( digitized version ), here p. 78; then Andreas Kley: Cantons. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  2. ^ Wilhelm Oechsli : The names of the old Confederation and its members. In: Yearbook for Swiss History 41, 1916, pp. 51–230 ( digitized version ), here p. 78.
  3. ^ Dictionnaire Suisse romand. Particularités lexicales du français contemporain, edited by André Thibault, Carouge 1997, p. 197.
  4. ^ Walther von Wartburg : French Etymological Dictionary , 2nd volume. Leipzig / Berlin 1940, pp. 227-234; Manlio Cortelazzo, Paolo Zolli: Dizionario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana. Bologna 1999, p. 288; Christoph Landolt : Canton. Word history from August 22, 2019, ed. from the editors of the Swiss Idiotikon .
  5. ^ The following according to Wilhelm Oechsli: The names of the old Confederation and its members. In: Yearbook for Swiss History 41, 1916, pp. 51–230 ( digitized version ); Christoph Landolt: Canton. Word history from August 22, 2019, ed. from the editors of the Swiss Idiotikon .
  6. On the meaning of status in the sense of 'federal place; Canton 'see Schweizerisches Idiotikon, Volume XI, Column 956 ff. Lemma, Stand or directly Col. 965 middle meaning 2cβ2 .
  7. For the meaning of state in the sense of 'canton' see Schweizerisches Idiotikon, Volume XI, Column 1661 ff. Lemma, Stāt II or directly Col. 1672 below meaning 2 .
  8. ^ SVP demand: Vorarlberg should become a canton . In: the standard . Retrieved April 26, 2012.
  9. ^ Statement by the Federal Council, accessed on April 26, 2012.
  10. Federal Chancellery : Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation - Art. 142 Required Majorities, Para. 4. SR 101. In: Systematic Legal Collection SR . Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation , April 18, 1999, accessed on March 26, 2019 (as of September 23, 2018).
  11. a b Federal Chancellery : Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation - Art. 1 Swiss Confederation. SR 101. In: Systematic Legal Collection SR . Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation , April 18, 1999, accessed on March 26, 2019 (as of September 23, 2018).
  12. Martin Körner: Suburb. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  13. Structure of the permanent resident population by cantons. Federal Statistical Office (FSO), August 26, 2016, accessed on May 31, 2017 .
  14. ^ The situation on the job market in December 2015. (PDF; 807 kB) State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), January 8, 2016, p. 9 , archived from the original on January 12, 2016 ; accessed on January 13, 2016 .
  15. Federal Chancellery : Ordinance on the admission of persons and vehicles to road traffic (Verkehrszulassungsverordnung VZV) - Art. 84 numbering system. SR 741.51. In: Systematic Legal Collection SR . Federal Assembly of the Swiss Confederation , October 27, 1976, accessed on March 26, 2019 (as of February 1, 2019).
  16., 20 minutes, 20 minutes, The large canton is not that big . In: 20 minutes . ( [accessed on June 26, 2018]).
  17. Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Volume III, Column 374, Lemma Kanton .
  18. ^ The 27th canton of Switzerland . In: Tages-Anzeiger . April 29, 2014 ( [accessed June 26, 2018]).
  19. The 27th Canton of Switzerland | Swiss travelers - past and present. Retrieved June 26, 2018 .
  20. The 27th canton of Switzerland - nowhere are we as present as in Kosovo . In: Aargauer Zeitung . ( [accessed on June 26, 2018]).
  21. Enver Robelli: Canton Kosovo . In: The Bund . May 28, 2018, ISSN  0774-6156 ( [accessed June 26, 2018]).
  22. "Some say Kosovo is the 27th canton in Switzerland". SRF, accessed on June 26, 2018 .