What would be the best way to identify countries, both in questions/answers and in tags?

As this is an English-based site, for questions and answers I think it makes the most sense to use the standard English country name, like Brazil instead of Brasil. But how do we handle countries that are typically abbreviated, like The US / USA for "The United States of America"? Should we refer to The UK or The United Kingdom or even Britain or Great Britain?

Tags are generally shorter, so should we stick to the internationally-recognised two-letter country codes? ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 is fairly standard and I think would look quite clean in the tag bar:


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    Let's make ISO_3166-1_alpha-3 and -alpha-2 aliases for the English language country code, and stick to (2 or 3-?)-letter acronyms when it's about citizenship (which is usually less central to the question).
    – gerrit
    Mar 12, 2014 at 22:06
  • As Tim Post mentioned below, I don't think the two-letter acronyms are such a good idea, especially since a lot of them are not so well known. Personally I wouldn't know without looking up which one of ID and IN is India and Indonesia.
    – drat
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:37
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    Do you live in either of those countries? Most people would recognise their own country's code, and probably wouldn't answer questions about countries they don't know about. Mar 13, 2014 at 12:59
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    I don't, I live in CH and find that most people don't know the acronym, that's why I'm concerned. Obviously if I'd get to live in a country, I'd learn it, but imagine you're planing to emigrate and not decided on the country yet, you might not know it and I don't think it's user-friendly if such basic tags cannot be understood without looking it up.
    – drat
    Mar 13, 2014 at 13:07
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    @AndrewLott If you want to bring people to the site, you want to make it user-friendly. Imagine a clothing e-shop where every piece of clothing is presented by a unique 4-letter code describing its type, material and usage. Nobody would ever shop there. You want that information in tag synonyms so that you can search [uk] instead of [united-kindgom] (moreover with a typo), but you want to present the convenient and understandable way.
    – yo'
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:46

4 Answers 4


Travel.Stackexchange went through this same problem, and for the most part use common terms rather than abbreviations, for the most part.

And always use plural, it becomes easier and cleaner to manage.

, etc

and you can have synomyms so that is the master, and or maps to it as well.


At the moment we can probably use any. At a later point in time we will probably make them into synonyms. If not we can probably use travel.SE as a template.

UK with synonyms of , ,

Personally I would prefer as a main one in that particular case.

Similar goes for -> ,

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    UK and GB are technically different in that the former also includes Northern Ireland. However, I would suggest that tagging [united-kingdom] is more correct in nearly all cases.
    – Kaz Dragon
    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:00

I'm strongly against using two-letter codes for countries. Many people in the world know where Belize, Madagascar and Philippines are, but not so much whether Madagascar is MA, MD or MG, and whether MC is Monaco or Morocco.

Two-letter codes are good for visa forms, but not for humans to read and understand them.

I propose using the country name in a standard form as long as it's not too long (what is "too long" should be discussed seperately). This human-redable information should be displayed in the question lists.

As for xx-citizens, the adjective form should be used primarily, as long as it fits in length.

Examples: czech-republic, czech-citizens, japan, japanese-citizens, united-kingdom, uk-citizens, united-states, us-citizens, european-union, eu-citizens.

  • As long as people can find the ISO-3166 alpha-2 based tags through synonyms, I think those will be the easiest to maintain, and cause the least headaches long run.
    – jmac
    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:32

I'm also on board with sticking to the two letter country code and creating synonyms as needed - it's just the simplest to explain and maintain. Regional tags can also be used for state / provincial clarification when answers should be influenced by this extra bit of information.

How to get a driver's license in the USA is going to depend on your state to a large degree, hence, you'd want the name of the state. I see similar questions about dealing with leases and land lords, etc, which might also need regional clarification.

For the main tags, though, I'd love to stick with two letters, it's just easiest.

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    ISO-Codes are practical in terms of information density, but for most people are unreadable. CH->Switzerland? Mar 13, 2014 at 9:12
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    Two letter codes aren't good for SEO. Mar 13, 2014 at 9:40
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    @RafaelCichocki Synonyms fix the usability / readability for the most part. If you start typing 'switz' you'll spot the synonym, and the system takes care of the rest. It's the SEO thing that I'm pondering a bit. I'm not upset if we go with what travel did, I'm just personally more fond of the ISO names.
    – user100
    Mar 13, 2014 at 13:36
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    Yes, synonyms do fix the usability issue, as long as the readable form is the primary tag.
    – yo'
    Mar 13, 2014 at 15:31
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    I'd say if trael.se has already been through this, there's not much point thrashing it out again here.
    – Benjol
    Mar 13, 2014 at 20:24
  • I'm 100% with making it the ISO codes for the fact that: (1) it is pre-existing and doesn't require any fuss, (2) it easily categorizes in to regional codes for many countries so it's expandable that way (I really don't want to see a tag of [united-states-of-america-minnesota], I would much prefer [us-mn], or uk-wls with appropriate synonyms. The tag excerpts can clarify their use in real English.
    – jmac
    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:37

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