According to the International Organization for Standardization, “CH”, Switzerland’s country code, stands for “Confoederatio Helvetica”. This is Latin for „Helvetic Confederation“.

"CH" derives from "Confoederatio Helvetica".
“CH” derives from “Confoederatio Helvetica”.

Where does the abbreviation “CH” come from?

You have to look back a long way into the country’s history to understand what the Helvetic Confederation has to do with modern Switzerland. Swiss history begins about 2000 years ago.

The History of Switzerland

During this period 2000 years ago, various Celtic tribes settled in the area between Lake Constance and Lake Geneva. Among them were the Helvetians from the Jura Mountains. Then, in the first century AD, Julius Caesar conquered the area.
The Helvetians were supposed to guard the Rhine border against the Teutons for him and they succeeded initially. In the 1000 years that followed, the area know today as Switzerland came to be ruled by various tribes and noble families. The area belonged to the Holy Roman Empire from the 11th century onwards. In the middle of the 13th century. King Rudolf I of Habsburg became king. Due to his tax policy, the king caused the Swiss to become discontented. First resistance movements started to develop.

After the death of the king, the so-called Old Confederation was formed from the resistance. It represented a loose union of states and survived into the 18th century. To this day, it is considered one of the central elements of Swiss national identity. According to legend, representatives of the three forest sites of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden took an oath of allegiance on the Rütli meadow in the Canton of Schwyz to form an alliance in which they decided to no longer be subject to any foreign rulers.
The alliance led to an uprising in which the Swiss were able to free themselves from Habsburg rule. Even though there are many stories about the exact circumstances of the alliance, a document dated 1291 attests to the foundation of the Confederation. The certificate bears the Latin name “Confoederatio Helvetica”.

Usage of CH

The "CH" can be found on car signs and the like.
The “CH” can be found on car signs and the like.

This is why we find the abbreviation “CH” on motor vehicles and in internet addresses. As Switzerland encompasses German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic linguistic and cultural areas, it has opted for an international label with its Latin name. In this way, none of the four official languages are preferred to the others. The common name “Switzerland” is derived from the German-speaking canton “Schwyz”.
In addition, the female figure Helvetia appeared for the first time in the history of Switzerland in the 17th century. She is intended as a symbol for the Swiss cantons and represents a figure of the Confederation’s identity. Her image can be found on coins to this day. Likewise, the Latin name “Helvetia” is also used on coins and stamps, because there is not enough space to denote all four official languages.


Why is “CH” the country code for Switzerland?
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