All About Switzerland
Switzerland’s Official Name
What is the official name of Switzerland? Where does the name Switzerland come from? What is the origin of the abbreviations CH (Swiss top level internet domain & car sticker) and CHF? What does CH mean and why can we read HELVETIA on Swiss coins and postal stamps? Why are Sz and SUI sometimes used as Switzerland’s abbreviations?
Confoederatio Helvetica (Abbreviation: CH)
Schweiz Suisse Svizzera Svizra Switzerland Suiza Suiça
CH car sticker
to be found
Swiss cars Language Official Name Short Name Abbr Stamp: HELVETIA
German* Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft Schweiz Sz
French* Confédération Suisse Suisse SUI
Italian* Confederazione Svizzera Svizzera
Rumantsch* Confederaziun Svizzer Svizra
English Swiss Confederation Switzerland
Latin Confoederatio Helvetica Helvetia CH
* German, French, Italian and Rumantsch are the four national languages traditionally spoken in different regions of the country. See also:
Why do the Swiss speak German, French, Italian or Rumantsch?
And which of all these names is going to win the race? Until August 2006, the official website of Switzerland’s federal administration was showing, believe it or not: CONFOEDERATIO HELVETICA on its banner. But times are changing and so this has been replaced by a modern design in the four official languages.
What is the meaning of Eidgenossenschaft?
In German language, Switzerland is mostly referred to using Schweiz (and schweizerisch for Swiss), but conservative Swiss German people prefer the somewhat old-fashioned official name Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (and eidgenössisch for Swiss).
The German term Eidgenonssenschaft/eidgenössisch is in fact only used in Switzerland, it is composed from the words Eid [means oath] and Genossenschaft [means co-operative or mutual benefit association], so Switzerland’s official German name Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft refers to the legendary beginnings of the nation with the oath at Rütli.
Origins of the modern names for Switzerland
Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera, Svizra, Switzerland, Suiza, Svizrija etc. are just a few transcriptions in different languages of Schwyz, once the leading of the three founding member cantons [federal states] of the Swiss Confederation back in 1291. (Note: the French term canton should be translated as county if it stands for a political entity in France, but stands for a federal state in Switzerland. Today the Swiss often talk about the 26 cantons of Switzerland as if they had always existed, while in fact the term itself has been adopted in Switzerland as late as 1798.)
In this respect Schwyz is the original name for Switzerland, referring to the most important among the three federal states standing right at the origins of the country’s independence.
More: the Origins of the Swiss Confederacy and the legendary oath at Rütli.
Abbreviations based on Switzerland’s modern name
·SUI [Suisse] (sports), probably this French abbreviation comes from the fact that the first official language of the Olympic Committee is French
·Sz [Schweiz] (sometimes to be seen on German TV stations)
Origins of Switzerland’s old Latin Name Helvetia
Swiss aircraft identified by country code HB Switzerland’s old Latin name Helvetia comes from the Helvetians, the first tribe settling in this central European region we have written historic records of. The latin name Helvetia is still being used on Swiss coins and stamps.
Abbreviations based on Switzerland’s official Latin Name
·CH [Confoederatio Helvetica] (mail, internet, cars)
·HB [H=Helvetia, B=2nd country code starting with H]
(aircraft: HB, radio amateurs: HB9)
·CHF = modern 3-character-abbreviation for Swiss Franc (Swiss currency),
corresponding to USD for the US Dollar
while the traditional / everyday abbreviation for the Swiss Franc is Fr.
(as you can see on coins of values ½ Fr., 1 Fr., 2 Fr. and 5 Fr.)
corresponding to $.
Why is Switzerland’s Latin name Helvetia still being used?
As the modern name Schweiz (and its transcriptions) always evoke the notion of a leading role of German speaking canton Schwyz within the Swiss confederation, some minority groups are not especially pleased with it.
Switzerland’s old latin name Helvetia on the other hand tries to focus on the older tradition that unites French and German speaking regions stretching from Lake Geneva in the southwest to the Lake of Constance (Bodensee) in the northeast of the country, that was once inhabited by the celtic tribe named Helvetians.
Learn more about the Helvetians.
In French language, helvetique (for Swiss) is being used quite often, and the 1798 Swiss Revolution, demanding for equal rights for all Swiss inhabitants and for the French speaking minority in the west of the country in particular, proclaimed the Helvetic Republic, referring deliberately to the old latin name Helvetia.
And here are two allegoric pictures of Helvetia – in 3D and 2D:
Helvetia Lost in Thoughts by Bettina Eichinger
Helvetia, by Bettina Eichinger, Basel
HELVETIA by Bettina Eichinger
Mittlere Rheinbrücke, Basel Helvetia on Swiss 2 CHF coin
… ONE DAY HELVETIA LEAVES A 2 SWISS FRANCS COIN
MINGLES WITH THE CROWD
AND MAKES A LONG JOURNEY
ON HER WAY SHE ALSO COMES
AFTER A FATIGUING WALK
ACROSS THE CITY SHE LAYS OFF MANTLE
SHIELD SPEAR AND SUITCASE
RESTS ON A BRIDGE PIER
OF MITTLERE BRÜCKE
AND LOOKS THOUGHTFULLY
DOWN RIVER RHINE …
How to get there
Right shore of Mittlere Brücke, downstream side.
Trams 6, 8, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17 to stop Schifflände, then cross the bridge or
trams 6, 8, 14, 15, 17 to stop Rheingasse and walk back to the bridge.
GPS coordinates: latitude=47.560861 longitude=7.590453, map by google