Canadian postal abbreviations for provinces and territories

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Canadian provincial and territorial postal abbreviations are used by Canada Post in code system of two capital letters, to represent the 13 provinces and territories on addressed mail. These abbreviations allow automated sorting. The codes replaced the inconsistent traditional system used by Canadians until the 1990s.

These abbreviations are not the source of letters in Canadian postal codes, which are assigned by Canada Post on a different basis than these abbreviations. While postal codes are also used for sorting, they allow extensive regional sorting. In addition, several provinces have postal codes that begin with different letters.

List of postal abbreviations[edit]

Abbreviation English name French name Source (English)
AB Alberta Alberta First letter of first two syllables
BC British Columbia Colombie-Britannique Initials
MB Manitoba Manitoba First letter of first and last syllables
NB New Brunswick Nouveau-Brunswick Initials
NL Newfoundland and Labrador Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador Initials
NS Nova Scotia Nouvelle-Écosse Initials
NT Northwest Territories Territoires du Nord-Ouest Initials
NU Nunavut Nunavut First two letters
ON Ontario Ontario First two letters
PE Prince Edward Island Île-du-Prince-Édouard Initials of first two words
QC Quebec Québec First and last letter
SK Saskatchewan Saskatchewan First letter of first two syllables
YT[A] Yukon Yukon Initials of "Yukon Territory"

List of traditional abbreviations[edit]

Though deprecated as postal abbreviations, the following are still often used as abbreviations in other contexts. Some of the abandoned French versions included a hyphen. The eventual goal became to standardize all abbreviations into two-character units. In French, with the hyphen, it became a three-character abbreviation, yet, without it, conflict arose with US state abbreviations, e.g., a hyphenless T-N became TN (a duplicate of Tennessee); N-E became NE (a duplicate of Nebraska). Over time, the English forms became standard. Nunavut (created in 1999) does not have a former abbreviation because it did not exist when these codes were phased out, though some abbreviations can be found in other works.

Province Traditional abbreviation Notes
Alberta Alta. [C]
British Columbia B.C. and C.-B. C.-B. is the French version, for Colombie-Britannique
Labrador LB 'LB' appeared in Canada Post publications (e.g., The Canadian Postal Code Directory) for the mainland section of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Manitoba Man.
New Brunswick N.B.
Newfoundland Nfld. (later NF) and T.-N. 'NF' was the two-letter abbreviation used before the province's name changed to Newfoundland and Labrador. T.-N. is the French version, for Terre-Neuve.[D]
Northwest Territories N.W.T. and T.N.O. 'T.N.O.' is the French version, for Territoires du Nord-Ouest.
Nova Scotia N.S. and N.-É. 'N.-É.' is the French version, for Nouvelle-Écosse.
Nunavut Nun. and Nvt.
Ontario Ont.
Prince Edward Island P.E.I. and Î.P.É. 'Î.P.É.' is the French version, for île du Prince-Édouard.
Quebec Que. and P.Q. 'P.Q.' is the French version, for Province du Québec; later, PQ evolved from P.Q. as the first two-letter non-punctuated abbreviation. Later still, QU evolved as the second two-letter non-punctuated abbreviation, making Quebec's abbreviation consistent with other provinces insofar as using letters solely from the name of the province, but not the word "province", as PQ did. There may also have been political considerations, as "PQ" was and is common shorthand for the Parti Québécois. New York State and New York City have decided to use "QB" to identify Québec Vehicle Licence Plates.
Saskatchewan Sask.
Yukon Yuk.

Choice of letters[edit]

The sources of the postal abbreviations vary. Some are from the initials of two of the words in the name of a province or territory, while others are from the first and final letter or from the first and some other letter in the name. All of these names are based on the English form of the name, though they also correspond to their French equivalents in various ways (for example, NT could be read for the first and last letters of Nord-Ouest, instead of Northwest Territories). For Quebec and New Brunswick, the two provinces with large numbers of French-speakers, the initials in both languages are identical. French equivalents of each abbreviation once existed: see Traditional abbreviations.

Avoidance of naming collision with adjacent countries[edit]

These abbreviations are fully compatible with the equivalent two-letter codes used for states and territorial areas of the United States, because no abbreviations overlap. The policy of not overlapping adjacent-country abbreviations, which helps the postal processing systems to avoid dealing with naming collisions, precludes use of NV (Nevada) in Nunavut and T-N as « Terre-Neuve » (Newfoundland). Manitoba's abbreviation is due to U.S. states already having abbreviations in all of the letters of the province's name besides "B". This policy later became a formal agreement between Canada Post and the USPS.[1] The USPS changed the abbreviation for the U.S. state of Nebraska from NB to NE in November 1969 to avoid a conflict with New Brunswick.[2]

There are no Canadian provinces with names potentially overlapping any other adjacent-country territorial abbreviations, such as SPM and GL.

The Canadian policy of adopting non-overlapping abbreviations to adjacent countries was opposite to the policy adopted by Mexico, where two-letter combinations were chosen regardless of whether that combination was already in use in the United States or Canada, e.g., CO Coahuila, MI Michoacán, MO Morelos, NL Nuevo León, BC Baja California.

Changes over time[edit]

Newfoundland and Labrador's abbreviation became effective 21 October 2002 to reflect the provincial name change from "Newfoundland" to "Newfoundland and Labrador" on 6 December 2001.

In 1991, the code for Quebec was changed from PQ to QC.

Nunavut's code became effective 13 December 2000; before this date, but after Nunavut's creation on 1 April 1999, the abbreviation "NT" was used for Nunavut as well as the Northwest Territories. Canadian postal codes begin with "X" for both NT and NU, the only two territorial or provincial jurisdictions to share the same initial postal code letter. However, the new code NU was chosen to stem possible confusion and to reflect the new territory's creation.

Sample of a properly formatted address[edit]

Source: Canadian Addressing Guide[3][4]

John Doe
27-1643 DUNDAS ST W
TORONTO ON  M6K 1V2

For International mail:

John Doe
1643 DUNDAS ST W APT 27
TORONTO ON  M6K 1V2
CANADA

Note that the street type, unit type, and city quadrant, if applicable, are abbreviated, without periods (though using periods, or even spelling out every word in its entirety, is unlikely to affect delivery in any way). Note also, for domestic mail, the lack of a comma between municipality and province/territory, the double space between the latter and the postal code, and the single space between segments of postal code, all on one line. For domestic mail, this must be the last line of the address, while for international mail, it is followed by a final line giving only the unabbreviated country name. Addresses should be done in all-upper-case without punctuation, and the unit number may follow street number, with a suitable unit identifier, e.g., "1643 DUNDAS ST W APT 27" using the above example.[4][5][6]

From the USPS Web Site Addressing International Mail - Address your mail correctly to be sure that it gets there

The last line of the address block area must include only the complete country name (no abbreviations) written in uppercase letters. Foreign postal codes, if used, should be placed on the line above the destination country. The following shows the order of information for the destination address

LINE 1: NAME OF ADDRESSEE
LINE 2: STREET ADDRESS OR POST OFFICE BOX NUMBER
LINE 3: CITY OR TOWN NAME, OTHER PRINCIPAL SUBDIVISION (such as PROVINCE, STATE, or COUNTRY) AND POSTAL CODE (IF KNOWN) (Note: in some countries, the postal code may precede the city or town name)
LINE 4: COUNTRY NAME (UPPERCASE LETTERS IN ENGLISH)

From the USPS IMM 122.1 Destination address
To Canada, there must be two spaces between the province abbreviation and the postal code, as shown below between “ON” and “K1A 0B1”:
The following format should always be used for destination addresses to Canada:

MS HELEN SAUNDERS
1010 CLEAR STREET
OTTAWA ON  K1A 0B1
CANADA

Notes[edit]

A. ^ Commonly though unofficially YK (also used in the second-level country code domain name space yk.ca). ISO-3166-2 lists YT as official [1].
C. ^ Also commonly, but unofficially Alb. in French.
D. ^ LB was commonly used for Labrador prior to 2002. It was an official code available for optional use in lieu of NF, and was listed in the Canada Postal Guide.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ S18, ID-tagging of letter mail items. Universal Postal Union. Page vi. Accessed June 2, 2011.
  2. ^ "State Abbreviations". Historian, United States Postal Service. 2009-09. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 31 March 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ "Canadian Addressing Guide", Canada Postal Guide at the Wayback Machine (archived January 13, 2007), Canada Post, 2006; accessed July 19, 2006
  4. ^ a b " Addressing Guidelines", Postal Guide, Canada Post, 2007; accessed December 20, 2007
  5. ^ "Addressing", Postal Standards at the Wayback Machine (archived January 3, 2007), Canada Post, 2006; accessed July 19, 2006)
  6. ^ "Civic Addresses", Postal Standards, Canada Post, 2007; accessed December 20, 2007)