Talk:ISO 3166-1 alpha-2

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Someone should add this [1] in? --Kaihsu 08:52, 5 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Table conversion[edit]

I've been converting a few of these massive ISO articles recently. Here's the program I used to convert this article:

// File:    convert-iso3166-alpha-2.cpp
// License: Public domain
// Author:  Ardonik
#include <fstream>
#include <iostream>
#include <string>
using namespace std;

void generate(istream& in, ostream& out) {
  out << "{| border=\"1px\" cellspacing=\"0\" cellpadding=\"2px\"\n";
  out << "|+ (Description) Two-letter Codes\n";
  out << "|- style=\"background-color: #a0d0ff;\"\n";
  out << "!Alpha-2!!Country\n";
  out << "|-\n";
  string line;
  while (getline(in, line)) {
    if (line.length() < 16) continue;
    string alpha2 = line.substr(2, 11);
    string country = line.substr(16);
    out << "|" << alpha2 << "||" << country << "\n";
    out << "|-\n";
  out << "|}\n";
  if ( && !in.eof()) cout << "Could not read from input\n";
  if ( cout << "Could not write to output\n";  

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) {
  if (argc != 3) {
    cout << "Usage: " << argv[0] << " [infile] [outfile]\n";
    cout << "  If infile is \"-\", input will be read from stdin.\n";
    cout << "  If outfile is \"-\", output will be written to stdout.\n";
    return 0;

  string infile = argv[1], outfile = argv[2];
  if (infile == "-" && outfile == "-") {
    generate(cin, cout);
  } else if (infile == "-") {
    ofstream out(outfile.c_str());
    generate(cin, out);
  } else if (outfile == "-") {
    ifstream in(infile.c_str());    
    generate(in, cout);
  } else {
    ifstream in(infile.c_str());    
    ofstream out(outfile.c_str());    
    generate(in, out);
  return 0;

To use it, simply copy a bulleted list from the old version of the page into a text file and run the program with the text file as the first argument and "-" as the second. Copy the resulting output and replace the old list with it.
The program's bigger than it ought to be, but I only had to run it once. --Ardonik 01:36, Aug 10, 2004 (UTC)

Why not UK?[edit]

Can anybody explain why when these codes were handed out the United Kingdom was given GB instead of UK? Edward 11:36, 2005 May 14 (UTC)

I've heard that it was because the Ukrainian SSR also wanted UK, and as a compromise neither got it. I don't know if this is really true. But it makes some sense, as the Ukrainian SSR was a UN member in its own right (despite being part of the Soviet Union), so it was entitled to a code (and was given UA). --Zundark 19:02, 14 May 2005 (UTC) has the answer by the ISO 3166/MA. However, UK is still a reserved code in ISO 3166-1 for the United Kingdom.--Jusjih 05:45, 26 August 2005 (UTC)
From that article: Since name components like Republic, Kingdom, United, Federal or Democratic are used very often in country names we usually do not derive the country code elements from them in order to avoid ambiguity. However, in that case, how did the United States manage to get us as its country code? *Dan* 13:34, August 26, 2005 (UTC)
Possibly the word state is less often used and the USA (also used as ISO 3166 alpha-3 code) is rarely abbreviated as America. Mexico is officially the United Mexican States but we do not normally call it the United States.--Jusjih 00:42, 27 August 2005 (UTC)
Incidentally, uk in ISO 639-1 is Ukrainian language.--Jusjih 08:33, 26 August 2005 (UTC)
Anyone know the deal with Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland is included under the code GB, as it is part of the United Kingdom. --Zundark 13:22, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
The ISO codes are based on the abbreviations the UN uses (this is documented on the ISO site). The UN uses abbreviations based on the geographical name of the country, not the official name, which as stated above, usually refers to its type of government. They do this to avoid implying recognition or otherwise to governments, and because the official name can change, but the geographical name changes less often. Thus, GB and not UK, FR and not RF (Republique Français, which is the abbreviation used by the French), DE and not BD (BRD = Bundesrepublik Deutschland), plus lots more. There are some exceptions, where there is no a common geographical name, just the official name. The US is one such exception, also CH (=Confederatio Helvetica, Switzerland is not an official name). --TiffaF 14:33, 14 September 2006 (UTC)
The UK was active on the internet using ".uk", before the Internet standardised as ISO-3166, that is why this is the one country that is not ISO-3166 as an Internet domain, but "uk" it is reserved to stop anybody else using it and causing more problems. --TiffaF 14:33, 14 September 2006 (UTC)


Now that Serbia and Montenegro have officially split, what codes are they going to get? Denelson83 00:38, 23 May 2006 (UTC)

They haven't split yet. When they do split, the ISO 3166/MA will give them new codes. But it's difficult to guess what these codes will be, as the most appropriate ones are already taken. --Zundark 08:24, 23 May 2006 (UTC)
Well, now that they have split, I have some ideas that the ISO 3166/MA could use to code these new countries. Serbia could be "RS", while Montenegro could be "ME". Denelson83 02:42, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
I thought of RS for Serbia (with R for Republic), but the problem is that the ISO 3166/MA tries not to use words like "republic" when choosing the codes. So Serbia may end up with something like SX instead (or maybe just stay as CS, since it's the successor state - compare with WS for Samoa).
ME is also my guess for Montenegro. This code is apparently reserved for Western Sahara, but similar reservations have been ignored before. --Zundark 11:42, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
It doesn't say ME is reserved here: -- Denelson83 18:02, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
You're right, it's not reserved according to that table. So a lot of the information about reserved codes in the article appears to be out of date. Someone should e-mail the ISO 3166/MA for a current version of the reserve list, and update the article. --Zundark 18:27, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
That isn't necessary. The reserved list is easily derived from that table. Denelson83 22:06, 5 June 2006 (UTC)
Yes, that's true as far as the alpha-2 codes are concerned, but presumably we also want to update the information on reserved alpha-3 codes (in the ISO 3166-1 alpha-3 article). --Zundark 08:58, 6 June 2006 (UTC)
Let's not hold our collective breath. This could take a while. In 2003, the Serbia and Montenegro government took 5+ months -- from their establishment on 2003-02-04, to informing ISO3166/MA of their preferred country codes on 2003-06-06, and 2 votes over the next 6.5 weeks to come to a decision, announced 2003-07-23. (And didn't Guernsey, Jersey, and Isle of Man take 8 months?) -- Robocoder (talk | contribs) 19:37, 14 July 2006 (UTC)
I don't know about GGY, JEY and IMN -- eight months from when onwards? They've been in existence since centuries ago as separate entities, so I really don't know what happened to make them get separate ISO codes only now... Could you enlighten me? —Nightstallion (?) 13:39, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
8 months from the application date to the date of publication.
* July 2005: BSI readies proposal for submission to ISO3166/MA.[2]
* vote results: 8 yes, 2 abstain, 0 no[3]
* 2006-03-29: ISO newsletter announces inclusion of Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man[4]
-- Robocoder (talk | contribs) 19:37, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
Interesting, thanks! I suppose you'll keep us up-to-date on any developments (official applications and such)? ;)Nightstallion (?) 06:03, 18 July 2006 (UTC)

SP for Serbia[edit]

User:Millosh already added "SP" for Serbia in the table in the article, contradicting the footnote about Serbia and Montenegro. This "SP" is at best a guess, at this stage. I have manually reverted. If Millosh has insider information, please provide the reference. – Kaihsu 22:04, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

I now see Serbian country codes. Self-reverting. – Kaihsu 22:09, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

It is still quite a mess here; but I will leave it for others to sort out. – Kaihsu 22:15, 2 September 2006 (UTC)

For Serbia it is ISO suggestion to Serbian government. So, speaking strictly, it shouldn't be inside of the article. But, Montenegro got even .ME root domain based on two letter code. --millosh (talk (sr:)) 14:46, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
There are two links in Serbian: [5] (about .ME) and [6] (about SP/SRB). In short, government of Montenegro gave control of .ME domain to some governmental institution. For Serbia it is more complex. Serbian authorities suggested RS for two letters code and SRB for three letters code. While ISO agreed with SRB, ISO suggested SP for two letters code. And it is just a metter of time when ISO suggestion would be accepted/implemented. --millosh (talk (sr:)) 14:51, 3 September 2006 (UTC)
Thanks for the info. It looks like ME for Montenegro is basically a done deal, while Serbia's alpha-2 code is still to be decided. I guess this holds up the whole process. ISO has to do these three things at the same time: withdraw Serbia and Montenegro's codes, release Montenegro's codes, and release Serbia's codes. Right now ISO is only ready to do the first two, and doing the first two (or either of the first two) without doing the third makes no sense. Hence, the wait.... Chanheigeorge 22:57, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Serbia could always request CP, as in СРБИЈА... The three-letter code could then be CPJ or CPA. (Not a serious suggestion, but it would be interesting.) Lincmad 17:34, 18 September 2006 (UTC)


Does Kosovo have a code yet? I've seen people using "KS" for it. Ptomblin (talk) 03:46, 1 January 2009 (UTC)

Ivory Coast[edit]

I am wondering why the French name for Ivory Coast is in the English language [Country name] column and then there is a English language comment in the [Notes] section that is used to describe the typical rational for the naming. If Côte d'Ivoire is in English then the note is superfluous as it already matches the [CI] code. If it is in French then I think the terms should swap places to be consistent with the rest of the table. Idyllic press (talk) 06:30, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

The first column lists the English name according to the ISO 3166-1 standard. ISO has chosen to use Côte d'Ivoire as the English name (even though it's French), so we have no choice but to list that. The Notes column just points out the usual English name. (As for why ISO uses the French name in English, this is because it generally follows the preferences of the governments concerned. Burma being listed as Myanmar is another example of this.) --Zundark (talk) 12:09, 21 May 2010 (UTC)

.uk versus .gb[edit]

I see there has been some back-and-forth between listing .gb or .uk as the ccTLD for United Kingdom. I haven't been able to find a definitive statement, but I do note that IANA lists the sponsoring organization for .gb as "Reserved Domain - IANA" and does not list a registrar or whois server,[7] while it does list a sponsoring organization and a registrar and whois server for .uk.[8] It may be misleading to list ".gb" as the ccTLD when it is impossible to actually use it. Anomie 23:49, 19 September 2010 (UTC)

My initial thought of adding the column for the ccTLDs is to list the corresponding ccTLD with respect to the code, i.e. "GB" → ".gb", not the ccTLD with respect to the country assigned the code, i.e., "GB" → "United Kingdom" → ".gb". But I do understand it can be misleading. There are other ccTLDs that are not in use, e.g. .sj is not in use and Svalbard and Jan Mayen just use .no. Chanheigeorge (talk) 00:47, 20 September 2010 (UTC)
Oh boy! Okay, lets start with the problem: the map shows the area of UK with the label GB. The entire region is The British Isles, in short it's built up as follows:
  • "Britain" is made up of England and Wales
  • "Great Britain" is made up of England, Wales and Scotland
  • "Ireland" is only the southern part of Ireland.
  • "Northern Ireland" is the northern part of Ireland.
  • "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" no longer exists
  • "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" is Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • "The British Isles" is all of the above and around 5000 other islands including The Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey and several others that have ISO codes.
All this means that the Irish are actually also British, but stupid Americans think that "British" is exactly the same as English and no true Irishman, Scotsman or Welshman is ever English.
So simply based on the map and normal usage the correct code would be 'UK' unless you want to piss off everyone from Northern Ireland.
But the ISO committee assigned the code 'GB' to the geographical area of the "United Kingdom". They fixed it later by also 'specially' assigning the code UK to the same region. But didn't actually deprecate the official code because it's in such wide use. They also have the same issue with the UK code and so cannot actually stop people using it.
As for ccTLDs, because ISO now assigns both to the same geographical area both are in fact correct and the users have chosen 'uk'. (talk) 17:03, 29 January 2012 (UTC)

Netherlands Antilles[edit]

Hello all,

On December 15 the ISO 3166/MA deleted the Netherlands Antilles and added codes for Curacao and Sint Maarten. They also lumped Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius as "Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba" (for details, see [9]). The ISO's decoding table shows these new codes and it also shows AN as "transitionally reserved". (see here). With the choice of BQ for the other three islands, it seems that ISO has recycled the code that used to be assigned to the British Antarctic Territory until the late 70's (for details, see: [10]). I have updated the article to reflect all of this. Hope this helps. - Thanks, Hoshie 06:26, 18 December 2010 (UTC)

Good job, thanks. Anomie 04:41, 19 December 2010 (UTC)

Vatican City[edit]

The Vatican City (= a state) is not the territory of the Holy See (= not a state at all). The later is a different entity of international law. -- (talk) 19:21, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

And yet the ISO 3166/MA lists it anyway. It is not the purpose of this article to editorialize on the standard's choice of entities to list or the names it gives them. We just report on what the standard actually says. Anomie 20:41, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

ISO2 redirects here rather than ISO 2[edit]

I was just doing a little work on the ISO 2 article... I noticed that Iso2 directs to this article, presumably because it defines two-letter ISO country codes. Would there be any objection to changing the redirect to point to the ISO 2 standard, which much more closely matches that as a possible search term? If this part of ISO 3166 is widely referred to as "ISO2", I certainly would not be against adding a "For two-letter ISO country codes, see ISO 3166-1 alpha-2" at the top of the ISO 2 article. Thoughts? --Dfred (talk) 23:19, 13 May 2011 (UTC)

I think your suggestion is good. There are no links that currently use the Iso2 redirect anyway. Thanks. Chanheigeorge (talk) 03:32, 16 May 2011 (UTC)
Done. --Dfred (talk) 17:58, 17 May 2011 (UTC)
I found this article today (and have found it the same way a couple of earlier times) by googling 'ISO 2', knowing that I needed the 2-letter ISO codes. The only reason I looked at this talk page is because I was wondering about the country name listed for Taiwan. So I am one of the users that enjoys that looking for 'iso 2' brings me here (and google still does). Never the less, I'd suspect a link 'for the country codes, look here' would work fine. Unilynx (talk) 20:10, 8 July 2011 (UTC)

Why not OE for Austria?[edit]

Why isn't Austria's (ie. Österreich=Oesterreich) ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code OE?

I am aware that AT/AUT come from French "Autriche", since AU/AUS were already assigned to Australia, but if the UN assigned names based on their English or French names, then why isn't Germany's ISO3166 abbreviation GE/GER or AL or AM (from French Allemagne)? Germany received an abbreviation in its own language, but Austria didn't.

Many more countries have ISO 3166 codes based on their language, e.g. Spain - ES/ESP, Estonia - EE/EST, or Iceland - IS/ISL to name just a few. These ISO codes were created from the names of the countries as they appear in original language, not in English or French.

The oddity is that many people using these abbreviations daily find them counter-intuitive -- the AT/AUT ISO code is an acquired use rather than intuitive.

Of course, that applies to many other countries as well (for those that use the Latin alphabet).

Did anyone ask a country's native before assigning codes? Can the codes change or are they pretty much set in stone? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:08, 7 February 2012 (UTC)

This is not the place for general questions about the standard; most likely no one here has any connection with the ISO 3166/MA, so your guess is likely as good as ours. You'd do better to check the ISO's FAQ and/or contact them directly with your questions. Anomie 03:14, 7 February 2012 (UTC)


The code "DY" is listed under both the indeterminate reservations and the unreserved deleted codes. I'd think it should be removed from one of them. SiBr4 (talk) 16:45, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

You are mistaken in thinking that the deleted codes are unreserved. "DY" referring to "Dahomey" has been deleted, so it belongs there. But "DY" has also been indeterminately reserved. This is the same as how "AI" referring to "French Afar and Issas" has been deleted, but "AI" referring to "Anguilla" is a currently assigned code. Anomie 01:59, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
Above the "deleted codes" table it says:

Besides the codes currently transitionally reserved and two other codes currently exceptionally reserved (FX for France, Metropolitan and SU for USSR), the following alpha-2 codes have also been deleted from ISO 3166-1.

So the deleted codes are those that were deleted, but not reserved. "AI" was deleted, but later reassigned to Anguilla. SiBr4 (talk) 10:16, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
Perhaps then the note should be changed. Do note that "transitionally reserved" is basically "deleted/changed, but reserved to allow people time to transition". Anomie 13:58, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
"DY" is a official code deleted from ISO 3166-1, and all of them have a corresponding ISO 3166-3 code. Some of the deleted codes are transitionally reserved (usually the more recent ones), but "DY" is not one of them. But "DY" is also one of the codes that are indeterminately reserved (almost all of them are not deleted codes), to allow backward compatibility to vehicle codes. The current statement cited above is correct, even though it was not noticed before that "DY" is also indeterminately reserved. Chanheigeorge (talk) 15:27, 16 September 2012 (UTC)
The "deleted codes" table lists the codes that were deleted, but not reserved. So if "DY" was indeterminately reserved, it should be removed from that table. SiBr4 (talk) 18:54, 16 September 2012 (UTC)

EH - Western Sahara[edit]

Does anyone here know/could anyone explain why the article states the code 'EH' for Western Sahara comes from the Spanish name 'Sahara Español'? Given the order in which those letters appear in the words (SaHara Español) it looks entirely arbitrary - it might just as well come from 'WEstern SaHara'. It's not like, for example, DEutschland or ESpaña. I realise asking here is extremely far-fetched, but I haven't so far managed to find a source that explains this. Even the ISO site simply states the code without any reference to its origin. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

I think EH is just a contraction of the alpha-3 code ESH. And ESH (instead of SES or SHE, for example) can perhaps be explained as combining ES for Español and SH for Sahara. --Zundark (talk) 15:47, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
That does make sense, actually. Thank you! The Bloody Cat (talk) 16:23, 4 July 2013 (UTC)
Probably EH was chosen because more obvious codes were already taken: SE for Sahara Español is assigned to Sweden; its reverse ES stands for Spain; WS for Western Sahara wasn't possible because of Samoa. Apparently they eventually chose EH as Western Sahara's two-letter code. SiBr4 (talk) 16:20, 4 July 2013 (UTC)

EZ and UN code status[edit]

At the ISO website [11] the status of EZ and UN code is "Exceptionally reserved" not " Unassigned" Tennegi (talk) 14:42, 14 March 2014 (UTC)

Reference 17[edit]

Reference 17 doesn't seem to work anymore. Anyone know how to fix this? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:37, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

The referenced document doesn't appear to be on the ISO site anymore, though there is a copy at [12]. I don't know whether is a reliable site we could replace the reference link with. SiBr4 (talk) 21:36, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

SF status[edit]

@Anomie:, thanks for making some research, notes and correcting my mistake. In the first place I just changed status for SF, since it was only listed in the table for transitionally reserved codes. I have tried to search for some more information about it. I found some interesting facts, e.g. that it was indetermined reserved,[1] but I can't find anything about the change from transitionally reserved, so I have written an e-mail to the customer service at ISO. Let's see if they will provide an answer. /PatrikN (talk) 21:52, 23 November 2016 (UTC)

And thank you for doing even more research! Anomie 22:49, 23 November 2016 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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  1. ^ Lang, Gérard (2009-08-12). "Status of SF new clause inside ISO 3166-1///RE: Ltru Digest, Vol 54, Issue 2". Ltru mailing list. Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).