Cantons of Switzerland

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Update 15 to the GEC, the successor to the FIPS standard, is dated 2014-03-31. It gives the names of cantons in various languages. It also changes the codes of two cantons, producing ambiguous codes. This is an error that will be corrected soon.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number I-5, dated 2003-09-05, shows a change in spelling for two Swiss half-cantons. As they are presented in the Swiss constitution, the two parts of Appenzell are spelled "Appenzell Ausserrhoden" and "Appenzell Innerrhoden". Previously, under Federal Law 1995-10-06, they were "Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden" and "Appenzell Inner-Rhoden", respectively. Update 8 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS standard 10-4, is dated 2012-05-01. It changes the name of one of the half-cantons from "Ausser-Rhoden" to "Appenzell Ausserrhoden", and analogously for the other one.

Country overview: 

ISO codeCH
LanguageGerman (de), French (fr), Italian (it), Romansh (rm)
Time zone+1~


Switzerland has been independent throughout the 20th century.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Schweiz, Svejts
  2. Dutch: Zwitserland, Zwitserse Bondsstaat (formal)
  3. English: Swiss Confederation (formal)
  4. Finnish: Sveitsi
  5. French: Suisse, Confédération f Suisse f (formal)
  6. German: Schweiz f, Schweizerische Eidtgenossenschaft f (formal)
  7. Icelandic: Sviss
  8. Italian: Svizzera, Confederazione f Svizzera f (formal)
  9. Latin: Confoederatio Helvetica, Helvetia
  10. Norwegian: Det sveitsiske edsforbund (formal) (Bokmål), Det sveitsiske eidssambandet (formal) (Nynorsk), Sveits
  11. Portuguese: Suíça, Confederação Helvética (formal), Confederação f Suíça f (formal)
  12. Romansh: Svizra, Confederaziun Svizra (formal)
  13. Russian: Швейцария, Швейцарская Конфедерация (formal)
  14. Spanish: Suiza, Confederación f Suiza f (formal)
  15. Swedish: Schweiz
  16. Turkish: İsviçre, İsviçre Konfederasyonu (formal)

Origin of name: 

name of Schwyz, one of the founding cantons, applied to the entire federation

Primary subdivisions: 

Switzerland is divided into 26 cantons (French or English), kantone (German), cantoni (Italian), chantuns (Romansh).

Appenzell Inner RhodesCH.AISZ10CH05415,68817266gAppenzell
Appenzell Outer RhodesCH.ARSZ02CH05353,01724394gHerisau
GraubündenCH.GRSZ09CH056192,6217,1062,744grChur; Coire (f); Coira (i)
JuraCH.JUSZ26CH02570,032838323fDelémont; Delsberg (g)
Sankt GallenCH.SGSZ15CH055478,9072,014778gSaint Gall
TicinoCH.TISZ20CH07333,7532,8111,085iBellinzona; Bellenz (g)
ValaisCH.VSSZ22CH012312,6845,2262,018fgSion; Sitten (g)
VaudCH.VDSZ23CH011713,2813,2191,243fLausanne; Losanna (i)
26 cantons7,870,13441,29615,942
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes. If periods are replaced by hyphens, these are the
    same as the canton codes from ISO 3166-2. The two-letter codes have been the official Swiss
    abbreviations for years.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • NUTS: Codes from the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics.
  • Population: 2010-12-31 census, based on population registers.
  • Lng: Majority language(s): French (f), German (g), Italian (i), Romansh (r)
  • Capital: English name of capital. Name is also given in French, German, or Italian, when different from
    English. Exception: when canton has same name as capital, look under "Other names of subdivisions,"
    because the foreign names of the capital will be the same.


The NUTS code system also defines groupings of cantons. All the cantons whose NUTS codes begin with the same four characters (for example, CH02-) can be designated as a group using those four characters. Here are the descriptions of the seven level-two NUTS regions of Switzerland.

Espace MittellandCH02
Région lémaniqueCH01


"Région lémanique" refers to the region around Lac Léman, which English speakers know better as Lake Geneva.

Postal codes: 

Switzerland uses a four-digit postal code (Liechtenstein is also part of the system). The postal code areas are not directly correlated with canton boundaries. The prefix CH- is often used on international mail within Europe to designate Swiss postal codes.

Further subdivisions:

See the Districts of Switzerland page.

Technically, Switzerland is divided into 23 cantons, of which three are further divided into half-cantons (French, demi-cantons; German, halb-kantone): Appenzell into Outer Rhodes and Inner Rhodes; Basel into Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt; and Unterwalden into Nidwalden and Obwalden. The cantons are the territorial divisions. Switzerland is also divided into 26 states, of which 20 are coextensive with the 20 undivided cantons, and six are coextensive with the half-cantons. The states are the administrative divisions. On a lower level, the cantons are divided into districts, which are further subdivided into communes.

Territorial extent: 

  1. Appenzell Inner Rhodes consists of three separate areas, each of which lies on the border between Appenzell Outer Rhodes and Sankt Gallen. Appenzell as a whole is entirely surrounded by Sankt Gallen, although at one point Sankt Gallen is only a corridor less than one kilometer wide between Appenzell and Austria.
  2. Bern has five exclaves. There are two tiny ones surrounded by Fribourg and containing Münchenwiler and Clavaleyres. There are also three that were created in 1979, when Jura was split from Bern.
  3. Fribourg has four exclaves: one tiny one surrounded by Bern, two surrounded by Vaud, and the largest, around Estavayer-le-Lac, surrounded by Vaud on three sides and Lake Neuchâtel on the fourth.
  4. Geneva has two exclaves. One tiny one is surrounded by Vaud. A larger one nearby is surrounded on three sides by Vaud and the fourth by Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), where it has a water border with France.
  5. Obwalden consists of two separate sections separated by Nidwalden, and both bordering on Bern. The smaller one contains Engelberg.
  6. Schaffhausen has three separate areas. They are all predominantly on the right bank of the Rhine. The first one, heading downstream from the Bodensee (Lake Constance), contains Ramsen and Stein am Rhein (and has a tiny extension on the left bank). The second, main section contains Schaffhausen city. The third and smallest contains Buchberg.
  7. Solothurn has three exclaves. The ones containing Kleinlützel and Mariastein are on the French border, separated from the main part of Solothurn by part of Bern. The tiny one containing Steinhof is surrounded by Bern.
  8. Thurgau has a small exclave containing the town of Horn, although if territorial waters in the Bodensee are taken into account, the exclave may be connected to the main section.
  9. Vaud has one exclave around Avenches, separated from it by Fribourg, but also bordering on Bern and having a water boundary with Neuchâtel.

The UN LOCODE page  for Switzerland lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

  1. Aargau: from the river Aar and German gau: district
  2. Appenzell: from Latin abbatis cella: abbot's chamber
  3. Basel-Landschaft: Rural Basel, from Ancient Greek basileia: royal (was fort of Emperor Valentinian I)
  4. Basel-Stadt: Basel City
  5. Bern: possibly from Indo-European ber: swampy place, or from Italian Verona (city name); see also Berlin, Germany
  6. Fribourg: German frei: free, burg: fort
  7. Geneva: Indo-European gen: bend, ava: water
  8. Glarus: possibly from Latin claris: clear, for a village in a clearing
  9. Graubünden: German graue bund: gray league, a league devoted to resistance to the Hapsburg Empire
  10. Jura: after the Jura Mountains, from Gallic iuris: wooded mountain
  11. Lucerne: probably after Saint Leodegar, the city's patron, but possibly Latin lucerna: lantern
  12. Neuchâtel: Latin Novum Castellum: new castle
  13. Nidwalden: German nieder: lower, Wald: forest
  14. Obwalden: German ober: upper, Wald: forest
  15. Sankt Gallen: site of an abbey founded by Saint Gall in 612
  16. Schaffhausen: Old German Sciphúsen: ship houses, because boats in Lake Constance trade were sheltered there
  17. Solothurn: Latin Salodurum, from durum: fort
  18. Ticino: after the Ticino River
  19. Valais: Latin Vallis Poenina: pennine valley
  20. Vaud: Latin Comitatus Valdensis, possibly from valdum: defensible spot

Change history: 

  1. 1979-01-01: Jura canton split from Bern. The basis of the split was religious and linguistic (Jura is predominantly French-speaking, Roman Catholic).
  2. 2000-01-01: Official spelling of the Appenzell half-cantons changed from Ausser-Rhoden and Inner-Rhoden to Ausserrhoden and Innerrhoden, respectively.

Other names of subdivisions: 

Rudolf Schmid writes that the Swiss government adopted a new official naming practice in 2001. When a geographical entity has more than one official language, its name is to be written in all languages, separated by slashes (/), ordered according to the magnitude of the area where each language is spoken, in descending order. For example, in Bern canton the greatest area speaks German, but there are some French-speaking areas. The canton name is Bern in German and Berne in French. Therefore, it should be written "Bern/Berne".

  1. Aargau: Argovia (Italian, Romansh); Argóvia (Portuguese); Argovie (French)
  2. Appenzell Outer Rhodes: Appenzell Ausserrhoden (German); Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden (obsolete); Appenzell dadens (Romansh); Appenzell Rhodes Extérieures (French); Appenzello Esterno (Italian)
  3. Appenzell Inner Rhodes: Appenzell Innerrhoden (German); Appenzell Inner-Rhoden (obsolete); Appenzell dador (Romansh); Appenzell Rhodes Intérieures (French); Appenzello Interno (Italian)
  4. Basel-Landschaft: Bâle-Campagne (French); Basel-Country, Baselland, Basel-Land (variant); Basilea campagna (Italian); Basilea Campaña (Spanish); Basilea-Champagna (Romansh); Basiléia região (Portuguese)
  5. Basel-Stadt: Bâle-Ville (French); Basel-City, Basel-Town (variant); Basilea-Citad (Romansh); Basilea Ciudad (Spanish); Basilea città (Italian); Basiléia cidade (Portuguese)
  6. Bern: Berna (Italian, Portuguese, Romansh, Spanish); Berne (Finnish, French)
  7. Fribourg: Freiburg (Dutch, German, Swedish); Friburg (Romansh); Friburgo (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish)
  8. Geneva: Cenevre (Turkish); Genebra (Portuguese); Geneve (Finnish); Genève (Dutch, French, Norwegian, Swedish); Genevra (Romansh); Genf (German); Ginebra (Spanish); Ginevra (Italian); Женева (Russian)
  9. Glarus: Glaris (Finnish, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish); Glarona (Italian); Glaruna (Romansh)
  10. Graubünden: Grigioni (Italian); Grischun (Romansh); Grisons (French)
  11. Jura: Giura (Italian, Romansh)
  12. Lucerne: Lucerna (Italian, Portuguese, Romansh, Spanish); Luzern (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Swedish)
  13. Neuchâtel: Neuenburg (Dutch, German)
  14. Nidwalden: Nidvaldo (Italian); Nidwald, Unterwalden-le-Bas (French); Nidwaldo (Italian-variant); Sutsilvania (Romansh)
  15. Obwalden: Obvaldo (Italian); Obwald, Unterwalden-le-Haut (French); Obwaldo (Italian-variant); Sursilvania (Romansh)
  16. Sankt Gallen: Saint-Gall (Finnish, French, Portuguese, Spanish); San Gallo (Italian); Son Gagl (Romansh)
  17. Schaffhausen: Schaffhouse (French); Schaffusa (Romansh); Sciaffusa (Italian)
  18. Schwyz: Schwytz (French-variant); Svitto (Italian); Sviz (Romansh)
  19. Solothurn: Soletta (Italian); Soleure (French); Soleuro (Spanish); Soloturn (Romansh)
  20. Thurgau: Thurgovie (French); Turgovia (Italian, Romansh, Spanish); Turgóvia (Portuguese)
  21. Ticino: Tesino (Spanish); Tessin (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Romansh, Swedish)
  22. Valais: Vallais (Romansh); Vallese (Italian); Wallis (Dutch, German)
  23. Vaud: Vad (Romansh); Waadt, Waadtland (German)
  24. Zug: Zoug (French); Zugo (Italian)
  25. Zurich: Turitg (Romansh); Zürich (Danish, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Swedish); Zurigo (Italian); Zürih (Turkish-variant); Zurique (Portuguese); Цюрих (Russian)

Population history:

Outer Rhodes54,00055,28157,72348,97744,75647,93848,92049,02347,61154,08753,50453,017
Inner Rhodes13,00013,49914,63113,98813,38313,42712,94313,12412,84414,68014,61815,688
Jura        64,98665,37668,22470,032
Sankt Gallen229,000250,285301,141286,362286,201309,106339,489384,475391,995416,578452,837478,907


All figures are census data. Jura was part of Bern until 1979.


  1. [1] Statistisches Jahrbuch der Schweiz 1990. Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zürich, 1989.
  2. [2] Chisholm, George G., ed., Longman's Gazetteer of the World. Longmans, Green and Co., London, 1920 (apparently not revised since the 1895 first edition).
  3. [3] Medienmitteilung . Eidgenössisches Departement des Innern, Bundesamt für Statistik (dated 2011-08-25, retrieved 2011-09-23).
  4. [4] Keltie, J. Scott, ed. The Statesman's Year-Book 1913. Macmillan, London, 1913.
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