Country names

This section covers:

See also General principles for place names.

International standards and resources

Use the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) listing of world geographical names or The World factbook of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the English names of countries (formal and short), capitals and major cities.

Australian conventions and resources

For documents with an Australian readership, use the country names recognised by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Abbreviations for country names

In most texts, it is acceptable to use the short form of a country name (see table below).

Examples of long and short forms of country names

Long form Short form Abbreviationa

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

North Korea


Federal Republic of Germany (the)



Independent State of Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea


Lao People’s Democratic Republic (the)



Republic of Korea

South Korea


Syrian Arab Republic (the)



Republic of the Union of Myanmarb



the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (UN)



United Republic of Tanzania (the)



United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)

United Kingdom


United States of America

United States


a  Several different listings of abbreviations exist, including the 3-letter codes of the United Nations (used here); 2-letter codes suggested by the International Organization for Standardization, which are based on the United Nations list; and 3-letter codes used by the International Olympic Committee.

b The Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has previously used the name Burma in some contexts; however, Myanamar is now (2020) used.

c  Commonly abbreviated as UK

d  Commonly abbreviated as US

Caution! Note that the UNGEGN lists Viet Nam, while both the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the CIA factbook list Vietnam.

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Use of articles in country names

In running text, most country names do not require an article (the). Exceptions are the Philippines (formal name: Republic of the Philippines), the Netherlands (Kingdom of the Netherlands), the Bahamas, the Comoros, the Congo (Republic of the Congo), the Gambia, the Marshall Islands, the Niger, the Sudan, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Do not capitalise the:

We went to Germany     She was born in the Netherlands

An exception for a capitalised The is The Hague.

For countries that take an article in running text, do not include the article at the start of a heading:

Philippines economy     Netherlands climate

Also omit the article when the country name is part of the place of publication in a reference (see General principles for books).

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