Why is the country code to Canada CDN and not CND?

This is something I’ve been wondering about for some time: why is the internation country code for Canada (as seen on cars for instance) CDN and not CND (which would make a lot more sense)? They’re not just random letters in most cases, so what’s the deal here?

I meant “international” and not “internation” of course.

Which country code is CDN?

According ot ISO3316-1, the alpha-2 code (that is the normal two character country code, that is used for internet top-level domains, and as a base for currency codes) for Canada is CA.
The alpha-3 code is CAN.
Unfortunatelly the ISO don’t have a lot of their standards available on the web. They want you to pay good money for a copy. There is however a copy here, that was up-to-date in 1999. Presumably Canada hasn’t changed name since.

Since you specificaly mention car signs, I think it’s time to drag out the 1968 UN convention on international road traffic(PDF). That’s where it is specified that one should have an ellipsoid white sticker on the rear of the vehicle (annex 3), but unfortunately it doesn’t list the actual code to use, although it does specify that it should be 1-3 latin characters long.

The code I’m talking about is apparently called the TaegerArchives code, which can be found here: http://www.iol.ie/~taeger/tables/tab8a-ak.htm

I’ve wondered this in the past, seeing cars with an oval white “CDN” plate on the back.

Pure, and probably wrong, guess - the people who thought it up wanted to abbreviate “Canada/Canadian Dominion” rather than “Canada”. (The place styled itself a “dominion” way back.)

Or it’s supposed to be short for “Canadian”? (They can’t have been that dumb.)

Or they were dyslexic?

We had a CDN tag on our car when we were living in Europe (military base - “Canada” license plate). I’ve wondered about it too, but it is possible that it is meant to stand for “canadian/canadien”. At least, thats how it was interpretted when we lived there - “Hey look, there’s another Canadian! Everyone wave!” there was great comaraderie on the autobahns of europe!

Those white oval plates are the international car codes.


No idea why Canada is CDN, either, but the “dominion” thing sounds good.



It’s very, very unlikely it has anything to do with “Dominion,” despite the old name of the holiday. Hemlock, “Dominion” isn’t part of the country’s official name and never has been - it’s always been officially just “Canada.” (This is a pretty common misunderstanding, even here.) And where “Dominion” was used colloquially, and as a description, it was “Dominion of Canada,” never “Canada/ian Dominion.” The fact that “Dominion” starts with a D is a coincidence; I don’t see any relevance in DDG’s Googled links. “Dominion” also wouldn’t work in French.

Plus, throwing “Dominion” in wouldn’t be consistent with other country codes, which usually do not incorporate long form names except where they’re used as a common name (USA) or necessary to distinguish the country from a similarly named country (DDG for East Germany.)

CDN is commonly used as a shortening of Canadian; for instance, when distinguishing between US and Canadian dollars, you’ll sometimes see “$75 CDN/$50 US.”

It’s also more unique. CDN for “Canadien/Canadian” is a more unique tri-letter combination than CAN, a relatively common syllable (in fact, it’s a word.)

Since we know CDN is in fact used to shorten “Canadian” in some contexts, and CA/CAN is the modern accepted abbreviation of Canada, I think that’s probably the right answer - it stands for Canadian, not Canada.

Too bad, the Dominion thing sounded good. But I guess “Canadian” is the most plausible answer, even though it does sound kinda dumb. Thanks.

It’s because people from Canada are called Candanadian.