Regional indicator symbol
The regional indicator symbols are a set of 26 alphabetic Unicode characters (A–Z) intended to be used to encode ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 two-letter country codes in a way that allows optional special treatment.
These were defined by as part of the Unicode 6.0 support for emoji, as an alternative to encoding separate characters for each country flag. Although they can be displayed as Roman letters, it is intended that implementations may choose to display them in other ways, such as by using national flags. The Unicode FAQ indicates that this mechanism should be used and that symbols for national flags will not be directly encoded.
They are encoded in the range U+1F1E6 🇦 REGIONAL INDICATOR SYMBOL LETTER A to U+1F1FF 🇿 REGIONAL INDICATOR SYMBOL LETTER Z within the Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement block in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane.
Emoji flag sequences
A pair of regional indicator symbols is referred to as an emoji flag sequence (although it represents a specific region, not a specific flag for that region).
Out of the 676 possible pairs of regional indicator symbols (26 × 26), only 270 are considered valid Unicode region codes. These are a subset of the region sequences in the Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR):
- All 256 regular region sequences in the CLDR
- 249 officially assigned ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 codes
- 6 exceptional reservations (Ascension Island, Clipperton Island, Diego Garcia, Ceuta and Melilla, Canary Islands, and Tristan da Cunha)
- 1 user-assigned temporary country code (Kosovo)
- Two of the 35 macroregion sequences in the CLDR (EU and UN)
- All 12 deprecated region sequences in the CLDR (strongly discouraged—intended for backward compatibility only)
|CS||Serbia and Montenegro||🇷🇸||RS||Serbia|
|DD||German Democratic Republic||🇩🇪||DE||Germany|
|NT||Neutral Zone||🇸🇦||SA||Saudi Arabia|
|QU||European Union||🇪🇺||EU||European Union|
|SU||Union of Soviet Socialist Republics||🇷🇺||RU||Russia|
|ZR||Zaire||🇨🇩||CD||Congo - Kinshasa|
A separate mechanism (emoji tag sequences) is used for regional flags, such as England 🏴, Scotland 🏴, Wales 🏴, Texas 🏴 or California 🏴 It uses U+1F3F4 🏴 WAVING BLACK FLAG and formatting tag characters instead of regional indicator symbols. It is based on ISO 3166-2 regions with hyphen removed and lowercase, e.g. GB-ENG → gbeng, terminating with U+E007F CANCEL TAG. Flag of England is therefore represented by a sequence U+1F3F4, U+E0067, U+E0062, U+E0065, U+E006E, U+E0067, U+E007F. In the tenth revision the Unicode consortium was considering U+1F3F3 🏳 WAVING WHITE FLAG instead, but from eleventh onwards it is black. Some vendors choose to include custom zero-width joiner sequences that only show up on their platform, such as WhatsApp and their Refugee Nation Flag 🏳️🟧⬛️🟧.
|Regional indicator symbols subset of Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement|
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
In 2007 a draft proposal was presented to the Unicode Technical Committee to encode emoji symbols, specifically those in widespread use on mobile phones by Japanese telecommunications companies DoCoMo, KDDI, and SoftBank. The proposed symbols included ten national flags: China (🇨🇳), Germany (🇩🇪), Spain (🇪🇸), France (🇫🇷), the UK (🇬🇧), Italy (🇮🇹), Japan (🇯🇵), South Korea (🇰🇷), Russia (🇷🇺), and the United States (🇺🇸). Encoding these flags but not other countries' flags was considered, by some, as prejudicial. One rejected solution was to encode the ten flags but call them "EMOJI COMPATIBILITY SYMBOL-n" and represent them visually in the Standard as "EC n" instead of showing the flags they represent. Another rejected solution would have allocated 676 codepoints (26×26) for each possible two letter combination of A–Z. They would represent political entities based on ISO 3166 such as "FR" for France or Internet ccTLDs (country code top-level domains) such as "EU" for the European Union.
The accepted solution was to add 26 characters for letters used for the representation of regional indicators, which used in pairs would represent the ten national flags and possible future extensions. Per the Unicode Standard "the main purpose of such [regional indicator symbol] pairs is to provide unambiguous roundtrip mappings to certain characters used in the emoji core sets" specifically the ten national flags: 🇨🇳, 🇩🇪, 🇪🇸, 🇫🇷, 🇬🇧, 🇮🇹, 🇯🇵, 🇰🇷, 🇷🇺, and 🇺🇸.
- Andrew West. "What's new in Unicode 6.0". Babelstone. Archived from the original on 2014-04-06. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
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- The Unicode Standard, Version 6.2, Chapter 15: Symbols (PDF). Unicode, Inc. September 2012. p. 534. ISBN 978-1-936213-07-8.
- "Emoji Sources" (plain text). Unicode, Inc. 2013-12-17. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- Jennifer Daniel (March 28, 2022). "The Past and Future of Flag Emoji 🏁". Did Someone Say Emoji?.