Regions of France

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(2016-10-05) Some of the new regions have changed their name. The region Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine is now Grand Est, Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes is now Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées is now Occitanie, and Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie is now Hauts-de-France. See source [16] provided by Fabien Antoine.

There is a new type of territorial unit in France, the métropole (metropolis). It unites many communes for certain purposes. Most but not all metropolises are contained within a single department. Nice Côte d'Azur became the first metropolis on 2011-12-31. Bordeaux, Brest, Grenoble-Alpes, Lille, Grand Lyon, Montpellier, Nantes, Rennes, Rouen-Normandie, Eurométropole de Strasbourg, and Toulouse were added on 2015-01-01. Grand Lyon acts as both a department and a metropolis. There are two new metropolises due to be formed on 2016-01-01: Grand Paris, consisting of the departments of Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-Saint-Denis, and Val-de-Marne; and Aix-Marseille Provence. See sources [14] and [15].

On 2016-01-01, a reorganization of regions took effect. In 2009, Balladur committee recommended reorganizing France from the then 22 regions to 15. The same report also proposed to eliminate the cantons. Later, François Hollande, the president of France, put forth a plan to reduce the number of regions from 22 to 14 by merging certain regions. A few regions would remain unchanged. The departments remain, but their powers are diminished and the expectation is that they will eventually fade away. One reason for the reform is to save money by cutting the territorial administrative load. The plan underwent successive modifications, cutting the number of regions to 13 at last. A specific set of mergers was announced as final on 2014-06-02, to take effect in 2015-03. On 2014-07-16, the plan was modified again. On 2014-11-25, the National Assembly adopted this modified plan, with an effective date of 2015-12-31.

The departments originated in 1790, and the regions only in 1960. The regions had little power to begin with, but they have been growing stronger and the departments weaker. I have now promoted the regions to the status of primary administrative divisions.

Insee, the French statistics agency, says that the 1999 census was the last. It uses a more complex method of measuring population now, the details of which are beyond the scope of this site. Every year a set of legal populations are published, with a statistical reference date of January 1 of a prior year. Actually, each subdivision has several population figures, such as "metropolitan population" and "total population." I will be reporting total population, which counts some people twice.

The NUTS code scheme was revised in 2003. The digit '0' was appended to the codes for Île-de-France and Nord-Pas-de-Calais regions to make all the region codes the same length.

On 2013-04-07, voters in Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin departments fell short of the vote needed to merge those two departments with the region of Alsace. That part of France would have had no government at the department level. Corsica considered the same kind of merger in 2003, but the referendum failed narrowly. Those departments still exist, but are united in the same regions. The idea underlying all such proposals is that France is overgoverned; its five layers of subdivisions are too expensive and inefficient.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-3 is dated 2011-12-15. For France, its changes are mostly just reorderings.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter number II-1, dated 2010-02-03, has changes to the listing for France, but nothing that affects data reported on this site. The main change is putting the territorial collectivities in alphabetical order.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-9 was published on 2007-11-28. It adds Clipperton Island (ISO code FR-CP) to France as a dependency (dépendance), and Saint Barthélemy (FR-BL) and Saint Martin (FR-MF) as overseas territorial collectivities (collectivités territoriales d'outre-mer), to correspond to the changes in status that took place this year. The codes for Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin are redundant, because they also have separate country codes. The newsletter also changes the status of French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, New Caledonia, and Wallis and Futuna from overseas territories to overseas territorial collectivities, probably reflecting changes that took place in 2004.

Clipperton Island has been placed directly under the administration of the French Overseas Ministry. Technically, it is now a public domain of the French state (domaine public de l'État français, propriété domaniale de l’État). As such, it is part of France, but not part of any other subdivision of France. Since it has no permanent inhabitants, I have exercised my editorial prerogatives by listing it under French Polynesia, where it belongs geographically and historically.

ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-2 was published on 2002-05-21. It corrects an error in the original standard document which placed the department of Deux-Sèvres in the wrong region.

Country overview: 

Short nameFRANCE
ISO codeFR
LanguageFrench (fr)
Time zone+1 ~


Alsace-Lorraine has changed hands several times between France and Germany. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Germany won the territory. France recovered it in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. It was placed under German administration in 1940, but restored to France in 1944 as the German army retreated. It has remained part of France ever since.

ISO code note: ISO standard 3166 contains a specific disclaimer stating that the scope of different codes may overlap. It even gives France and Martinique as an example, explaining that although Martinique is part of France (and presumably covered by the code FR), it also has its own code MQ. However, the only cases of overlap seem to follow the same paradigm as Martinique. The remote territories of a colonial power have their own listings, but can also be considered as covered under the mother country. Until 1993, it was possible to use the standard as if its countries were disjoint, by ignoring the disclaimer and making the mental proviso that codes like FR applied to the mother country only. In 1993, the code FX was added to the standard. FX is described as referring to Metropolitan France, excluding territories such as Martinique. It was withdrawn again in 1997, but remains an "exceptionally reserved code element".

Other names of country: 

  1. Danish: Frankrig
  2. Dutch: Frankrijk, Franse Republiek (formal)
  3. English: French Republic (formal)
  4. Finnish: Ranska
  5. French: France f, République f française (formal)
  6. German: Frankreich n
  7. Icelandic: Frakkland
  8. Italian: Francia f
  9. Norwegian: Frankrike, Republikken Frankrike (formal)
  10. Portuguese: França f, República f Francesa (formal)
  11. Russian: Франция, Французская Республика (formal)
  12. Spanish: Francia f, República f Francesa (formal)
  13. Swedish: Frankrike
  14. Turkish: Fransa Cumhuriyeti (formal)

Origin of name: 

Land of the Franks.

Primary subdivisions: 

France, in Europe and adjacent islands (Corsica), is divided into 13 régions (regions). It also has a number of possessions, some of which are classified as régions d'outre-mer (overseas regions). The overseas regions are nominally equivalent in status to the continental ones, but they are listed as separate countries here, following ISO 3166-1.

Centre-Val de LoireFR.CN2,619,61339,15115,116Orléans
Grand EstFR.AO5,661,31957,43322,175Strasbourg
Pays de la LoireFR.PL3,676,58232,08212,387Nantes
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'AzurFR.PR4,984,05831,40012,124Marseille
13 regions64,207,050543,964210,026


Postal codes: 

France uses five-digit postal codes (codes postaux). The first two digits of the postal code are the same as the ISO code for the department, except for Corse-du-Sud (ISO code 2A, postal codes 200xx-201xx) and Haute-Corse (2B, 202xx). A few places have postal codes corresponding to a neighboring department. Note: postal codes for French addresses can be identified by prefixing them with "F-".

Further subdivisions:

See the Departments of France page.

See the Arrondissements of France page.

The departments of France are subdivided into arrondissements. These should not be confused with the municipal arrondissements, which are subdivisions of the three largest communes by population: Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. The municipal arrondissements are numbered. The arrondissements constituting the tertiary level of subdivision of France have names, usually after one or more cities in them. The arrondissements were formerly always subdivided into cantons. In 2015, the cantons were reorganized so that they may sometimes span more than one arrondissement. Communes are the basic building block of France: both arrondissements and cantons are subdivided into communes. (The same words, arrondissement, canton, and commune, are generally used in English. The basic meaning of arrondissement is a rounding off, or rounding out.) In densely populated areas, there may be several cantons in a commune. Municipal arrondissements are legally equivalent to cantons. On 1988-01-01, there were 22 regions, 96 departments, 326 arrondissements, 3,827 cantons, and 36,538 communes in metropolitan France (France in Europe, including Corsica). The word circonscription (circumscription, constituency) is used in France and its former colonies to describe an administrative division at any level.

In the past, various ministries of the French government found it convenient to group the departments into régions. Each one used a slightly different grouping. In 1960, a common set of 21 regions was adopted as a standard for all ministries. The regions have gradually taken on an administrative structure, including councils, elections, and budgets. For a country the size of France, 96 departments is an unwieldy number. Now the regions have become the primary administrative divisions.

Territorial extent: 

  1. See the departments page for islands and exclaves by department.
  2. The following remote territories of France are treated as separate countries by ISO 3166-1, so they are not included here: French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern Territories, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna. Each of the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion) is also a region: Mayotte since it became an overseas department in 2011, the others since 1974. Although each one has its own ISO country code, they also have supplementary codes which are the country code with FR- prefixed, making it possible to represent them as parts of France. In addition, ISO gives Clipperton Island the code FR-CP (but no country code). I have called Clipperton Island part of French Polynesia for classification purposes.
  3. According to my latest information, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, and Wallis and Futuna Islands are overseas collectivities (collectivités d'outre-mer); French Polynesia and New Caledonia are overseas countries (pays d'outre-mer); French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, and Reunion are overseas departments (départements d'outre-mer); French Southern Lands is an overseas territory (territoire d'outre-mer); and Saint Pierre and Miquelon is a territorial collectivity (collectivité territoriale).

Origins of names: 

Since France so often re-uses name elements (there are six departments and one region containing Loire in their names), I have given the probable origins of name elements rather than of the full names.

  1. Alpes: probably from an Indo-European root meaning mountain, high place
  2. Alsace: from ethnic name, probably Germanic for "those of foreign parts"; or, land of the Ill (River)
  3. Aquitaine: from ethnic name Aquitani; or, Latin Aquitania: land of water
  4. Ardennes: said to come from Celtic ardu-: high
  5. Auvergne: from ethnic name Arverni, from Gallic are verno: at the alders
  6. Basse: French for low (f.), usually applied to downstream areas
  7. Bourgogne: Germanic Burgundja, either from Indo-European bhrghu: tall, or from Gothic baurgjans: inhabitants of fortified places
  8. Bretagne: Land of the Bretons
  9. Centre: French for center
  10. Champagne: Latin campania: countryside
  11. Charente: from Gallic word for sandy
  12. Corse: from ethnic name Corsi, possibly from Phoenician horsi: wooded
  13. Côte-d'Azur: French: blue coast (coined by Stephen Liégeard in his 1887 book, La Côte d'Azur)
  14. Franche-Comté: French for free county. From 1361 to 1678, Bourgogne was divided into a duchy, which belonged to France, and the free county, which was exempt from tribute to the king.
  15. Île-de-France: French: Island of France (the area around Paris, once the only territory of the King of France)
  16. Languedoc: French Langue d'Oc: language of "oc" (in the local dialect, "oc" was used for "yes")
  17. Limousin: province of Limoges, from ethnic name Lemovices, from Gallic lemo: elm, vices: warrior
  18. Lorraine: from Lotharingie, the domain given to Lothaire in the partition of Charlemagne's realm (A.D. 843)
  19. Midi: French for South (as a region rather than a compass point), from Latin meridies: midday (sun stands in the south at midday in those latitudes)
  20. Nord: French for North
  21. Normandie: from ethnic name Normand (people from the North)
  22. Pas-de-Calais: French: Strait of Calais. Calais comes from the ethnic name Caleti.
  23. Pays de la Loire: French for land of the Loire River
  24. Poitou: province of Poitier, from ethnic name Pictones
  25. Provence: Latin Provincia: the province
  26. Pyrénées: Mountains named for a village named Pyrene.
  27. Rhône: came through Latin Rhodanus from an old root Rhod-: river
  28. Roussillon: from Ruscino, name of a city in the province (modern Château-Roussillon)
  29. Val-de: French for "valley of"

Change history: 

  1. 1960-06-02: Twenty-one circonscriptions d'action régionale (circumscriptions for regional action, now simply regions) were created by grouping sets of contiguous departments.
  2. 1975-05-15: Corsica region split from Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region.
  3. 1976-03-06: Name of one region changed from Région parisienne to Île-de-France.
  4. 1982-03-02: Status of circonscriptions d'action régionale changed to regions.
  5. 1991-01-17: FIPS Change Notice #9, affecting FIPS PUB 10-3, assigned FIPS codes to the regions.
  6. 1991-05-13: Status of Corse region changed to collectivité territoriale (territorial collectivity).
  7. 1993-11-01: Under the Maastricht Treaty, the European Union replaced the European Communities, of which France was a member. These were the regions as of 2010.
Pays de la LoireFR.PLRFRB5FR513,676,58232,082Nantes
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'AzurFR.PRUFRB8FR824,984,05831,400Marseille
22 regions64,207,050543,964
  • Region: technically, Corse is a territorial collectivity.
  • ISO: codes from ISO 3166-2.
  • FIPS: Codes from FIPS PUB 10-4.
  • NUTS: Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics.
  • Population: 2010-01-01 legal populations.


The six regions whose NUTS codes begin with FR2 form a group which the NUTS standard designates as Bassin Parisien. Similarly, FR4 is Est; FR5 is Ouest; FR6 is Sud-Ouest; FR7 is Centre-Est; and FR8 is Méditerranée. The NUTS codes beginning with FR9 are assigned to the overseas departments.

  1. 2015-01-17: Name of Centre region changed to Centre-Val de Loire.
  2. 2016-01-01: Alsace, Champagne-Ardenne, and Lorraine regions merged to form Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine; Aquitaine, Limousin, and Poitou-Charentes merged to form Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes; Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes merged to form Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes; Bourgogne and Franche-Comté merged to form Bourgogne-Franche-Comté; Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées merged to form Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées; Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie merged to form Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie; Basse-Normandie and Haute-Normandie merged to form Normandie.

Other names of subdivisions: 

  1. Alsace: Alsacia (Spanish); Alsácia (Portuguese); Alsazia (Italian); Elsaß (German); Elzas (Dutch)
  2. Aquitaine: Aquitania (Italian); Aquitánia (Portuguese); Aquitanien (German)
  3. Auvergne: Alvernia (Italian)
  4. Bourgogne: Borgogna (Italian); Borgoña (Spanish); Borgonha (Portuguese); Burgund (German); Burgundy (English)
  5. Bretagne: Bretagna (Italian); Bretaña (Spanish); Bretanha (Portuguese); Brittany (English); Бретань (Russian)
  6. Centre: Centro (Italian, Portuguese)
  7. Champagne-Ardenne: Champaña-Ardenne (Spanish); Champanhe-Ardenas (Portuguese)
  8. Corse: Córcega (Spanish); Córsega (Portuguese); Corsica (English, Italian, Swedish); Korsika (Dutch, German, Norwegian); Корсика (Russian)
  9. Franche-Comté: Franca Contea (Italian); Franco-Condado (Portuguese,Spanish)
  10. Île-de-France: Ilha-de-França (Portuguese); Regione Parigina (Italian)
  11. Languedoc-Roussillon: Languedoc-Rosellon (Spanish); Linguadoca e Rossiglione (Italian)
  12. Limousin: Lemosin (Spanish); Limosino (Italian, Portuguese)
  13. Lorraine: Lorena (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish); Lothringen (German)
  14. Midi-Pyrénées: Midi e Pirenei (Italian)
  15. Normandie: Normandia (Italian, Portuguese); Normandía (Spanish); Normandy (English)
  16. Pays de la Loire: Regione della Loira (Italian); Terras do Loire (Portuguese)
  17. Picardie: Picardia (Portuguese); Picardía (Spanish); Piccardia (Italian)
  18. Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur: PACA (acronym); Provença-Alpes-Costa Azul (Portuguese); Provença-Alps-Costa Blava (Catalan); Provenza-Alpes-Costa de Azul (Spanish); Provenza-Alpi-Costa Azzurra (Italian)
  19. Pyrénées: Pirenei (Italian); Pirineos (Spanish); Pirinéus (Portuguese); Pirinio (Basque)
  20. Rhône-Alpes: Ródano-Alpes (Portuguese, Spanish); Rodano e Alpi (Italian)
  21. Val de Loire: Vale do Loire (Poruguese); Valle della Loira (Italian); Valle de Loira (Spanish)

Population history:

Centre-Val de Loire2,440,3292,619,613
Pays de la Loire3,222,0613,676,582
Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur4,506,1514,984,058


  1. [1] Masson, Jean-Louis. Provinces, Départements, Régions. Paris: Éditions Fernand Lanore, 1984.
  2. [2] Rostaing, Charles. Les Noms de Lieux. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1945.
  3. [3] Territory and Administration in Europe. Robert Bennett, ed. Pinter Publishers, London and New York, 1989.
  4. [4] Fifth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. Vol. II. New York: United Nations, 1991.
  5. [5] Longman's Gazetteer, 1920.
  6. [6] Almanach Hachette 1971. Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1970.
  7. [7] Annuaire Statistique de la France 1990: résultats de 1989. Paris: Insee (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques), 1990.
  8. [8] Frémy, Dominique and Michèle. Quid 1993. Paris, Éditions Robert Laffont, 1992. Also 1973 edition.
  9. [9] Petit Larousse illustré. Paris, Librairie Larousse, 1976. Also 1913 edition.
  10. [10] Lang, Gérard. Le Code officiel géographique . Insee, Courrier des statistiques No. 108, 2003.
  11. [11] Populations légales ... . Insee (retrieved 2013-05-04).
  12. [12] Modifications de communes  describes itself as a list of all changes to communes from 1930 to 2014. Insee (retrieved 2014-09-09).
  13. [13] Arrondissement  Insee (retrieved 2015-06-01).
  14. [14] Décentralisation: pourquoi Hollande prend Lyon en exemple  Le Nouvel Observateur (retrieved 2014-01-17),
  15. [15] Onze grandes villes accèdent au rang de métropole  Les Échos (retrieved 2015-03-15).
  16. [16] Les noms des sept nouvelles régions officiels  Dernières Nouvelles D'Alsace (retrieved 2016-10-05).
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