Language codes, country codes

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  • ISO 639 is the set of international standards that lists short codes for language names:
    • ISO 639-1 (~136 two-letter codes for most common languages)
    • ISO 639-2 (~464 three-letter codes, including language groups)(verify)
    • ISO 639-3 (~7600 three-letter codes, no groups)

  • Language codes used in MARC (a library metadata standard) strongly correlate with ISO 639-2. (see [2])


For example, Belgium is BE, BEL, and 056 respectively
  • UN M.49 are area codes used by the UN that defines geographical, political, and economic regions.

Writing systems


ISO 4217 is a list of three letter currency codes consisting of the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code and the initial of the currency. It is the norm in banking, and also common in other contexts, such as airline and many other international tickets, exchange rates listed in newspapers, etc. (verify)

A few currencies are not listed, often because they are not independent currencies, usually because they are local currencies pinned to another currency. In some cases, these may have codes used for them which are not listed in the ISO document.


Note that there are some cases where the ISO 639-1 language code and the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code is the same.

Sometimes this may indicate the country that the language is mostly spoken in, sometimes they are completely unrelated.

This has led to some confusion, and people using codes in the wrong contexts.

This seems caused by most codes being based largely on exonyms and endonyms(verify)

See also