Island Groups of Kiribati

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Added 2015 census results received from Sorin Cosoveanu. See Source [4]

Update 15 to the GEC, the successor to the FIPS standard, is dated 2014-03-31. It deprecates the previously assigned codes, implying that Kiribati has no administrative subdivisions.

Thanks to information received from Sorin Cosoveanu, I've added populations from the 2010 census, and revised the areas to what I assume are the current official figures. He also pointed me to source [3], from which I gleaned information about further subdivisions.

Erratum: the Gilbert Islands were named for Thomas Gilbert, not Joseph Gilbert.

Kiribati is one of those countries where it's hard to know how to specify the capital. At independence, the government was seated in the town of Bairiki, which is in Teinainano Urban Council, which is the southern part of Tarawa Atoll in the Gilbert Islands. More recently, the Parliament moved to Ambo, which is also in Teinainano. Many sources list Tarawa as the capital of Kiribati, but some give Bairiki. The largest dimension of Tarawa isn't much more than 20 miles, and Bairiki is about 5 miles from Ambo, but on a different island.

Country overview: 

Short nameKIRIBATI
ISO codeKI
LanguageEnglish (en), Gilbertese
Time zone(see table)


The British Empire acquired the islands composing this country over the years, a few at a time, as protectorates. On 1915-11-12 a colony was created, under the name of Gilbert and Ellice Islands. As time went by, the colony was augmented by the Phoenix Islands, the Union Islands, and the Line Islands. The Union Islands were offered to New Zealand. On 1926-02-11, New Zealand took over their administration. On 1949-01-01 they became an overseas territory of New Zealand under the name of Tokelau Islands. Due to a territorial dispute, the United States and the United Kingdom agreed to form a condominium of Canton and Enderbury Islands on 1939-04-06. The Gilbert and Ellice Islands were occupied by Japan during World War II. On 1975-10-01, the Ellice Islands broke off as a separate country, Tuvalu. The remaining territory was renamed the Gilbert Islands. It became independent and took the name Kiribati on 1979-07-12. Shortly afterward, the United States renounced its claim to Canton, Enderbury, and other islands in the Phoenix and Line groups.

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Kiribati, Republikken Kiribati (formal)
  2. Dutch: Kiribati, Republiek Kiribati (formal)
  3. English: Republic of Kiribati (formal), Gilbert Islands (obsolete)
  4. Finnish: Kiribati
  5. French: Kiribati m
  6. German: Kiribati n
  7. Icelandic: Kíribatí
  8. Italian: Kiribati
  9. Norwegian: Kiribati
  10. Portuguese: Kiribati, Quiribati, República f do Kiribati m (formal)
  11. Russian: Республика Кирибати (formal)
  12. Spanish: Kiribati, República f de Kiribati (formal)
  13. Swedish: Kiribati
  14. Turkish: Kiribati Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Gilbertese form of Gilbert[ Island]s, for Thomas Gilbert, ship captain

Primary subdivisions: 

Kiribati is divided into three island groups. They have no administrative function, but serve as a convenient geographical subdivision of Kiribati.

Gilbert IslandsKI.GIGKR011299,63393,791286110
Line IslandsKI.LILKR021410,4839,236494191
Phoenix IslandsKI.PIPKR031320312811
3 divisions110,136103,058808312
  • HASC: Hierarchical administrative subdivision codes.
  • ISO: Codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4 (deprecated).
  • Tz: Time zone (number of hours by which local time is ahead of GMT).
  • Pop-15: 2015-11-07 census
  • Pop-10: 2010-11-07 census

Further subdivisions:

Kiribati is divided into 23 island councils, 3 town councils, and unorganized territory. Source [3] reaffirms this, but also contains a table of provinces, showing the country divided into Northern, Central, Southern, and Northern Line Islands. Judging from populations, the first three are equivalent to Gilbert Islands and the last one contains all the populated places in Line Islands and Phoenix Islands.

Territorial extent: 

The sequence of groups from west to east and their approximate limits of longitude is Gilbert, 180°, Phoenix, 165° W., Line.

  1. The Gilbert Islands include Tarawa, Tabiteuea, Abaiang, Butaritari, Abemama, Nonouti, Beru, Marakei, Nukunau (Nikunau), Maiana, Onotoa, Makin, Arorae, Tamana, Kuria, Aranuka, and Banaba (Ocean).
  2. The Line Islands include Kiritimati (Christmas), Tabuaeran (Fanning), Teraina (Washington), Starbuck, Caroline, Vostok, Malden, and Flint.
  3. The Phoenix Islands include Kanton (Canton, Abariringa), Enderbury, Rawaki (Phoenix), McKean, Nikumaroro (Gardner), Orona (Hull), Manra (Sydney), and Birnie.

The UN LOCODE page  for Kiribati 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.

Change history: 

  1. 1970: The Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony, a British dependency, was divided into four districts: Ellice Islands (capital Funafuti), Gilbert Islands (Tarawa), Line Islands (Christmas Island, now named Kiritimati), and Ocean Island (Ocean Island, now named Banaba).
  2. 1972-01-01: Central and Southern Line Islands (claimed by the United States) united with Gilbert and Ellice Islands (probably joining Line Islands district) by Order in Council. The islands in this group were Caroline, Flint, Malden, Starbuck, and Vostok.
  3. ~1974: Phoenix Islands district split from Gilbert Islands.
  4. 1975-10-01: Ellice Islands separated to become a new country, Tuvalu. Name of Gilbert and Ellice Islands changed to Gilbert Islands.
  5. 1979-07-12: Gilbert Islands became independent; name changed to Kiribati.
  6. 1983-09-23: The United States relinquished its claim to fourteen Pacific islands in the Line and Phoenix groups by the treaty of Tarawa (signed 1979-09-20, effective 1983-09-23).

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Canton and Enderbury Islands: Canton und Enderbury Inseln (German); Îles Canton et Enderbury (French); Ilhas Cantão e Enderbury (Portuguese); Islas Canton y Enderbury (Spanish)
  2. Gilbert Islands: Tungaru (Gilbertese)

Population history:

Gilbert Islands61,22667,50871,75778,15883,68393,791
Line Islands2,6334,7825,8186,2758,8099,236
Phoenix Islands244583614131


  1. [1] 2005 census data: Kiribati 2005 Census of Population and Housing: Provisional Tables, Table 2. Population by sex, age group and island - 2005  (retrieved 2009-05-31).
  2. [2] 1985-2000 census data: Historical Population Data by Island  (retrieved 2009-05-31).
  3. [3] The local government system in Kiribati . Commonwealth Local Government Forum website (retrieved 2012-09-25).
  4. [4] Kiribati 2015 Final Census Results . (retrieved 2017-07-01).
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