Districts of Macau

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I found the 2011 census results for Macau on the website of Macau's Statistics and Census Service (DSEC). The area of the country has grown due to landfill; the table below shows updated areas.

Update 4 to Geopolitical Entities and Codes, the successor to FIPS PUB 10-4, was issued on 2011-04-30. It revokes the codes for the two districts.

ISO 3166-1 NEWSLETTER No. V-4 was published on 2002-05-20. ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-3 was published on 2002-08-20. It also changes the spelling from Macau to Macao, which seems redundant until you consider that 3166-1 and 3166-2 are separate standards. See the spelling note under Country overview for a discussion.

Newsletter I-3 also makes it clear that either MO or CN-92 is an acceptable ISO code for Macau.

International standard ISO 3166-2 was published on 1998-12-15. It superseded ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard). For Macau, the draft standard showed two districts with their codes. The final standard mentions that there are two districts, but declines to specify names or codes. It says that these divisions are "not relevant".

On 1999-12-20, as planned, Macau became a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China. This is the same status as Hong Kong. Its code according to the Chinese standard GB2260 is 82.

When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control, ISO 3166 left it with its own separate country code. This conforms to one of the principles used for allocating country codes: "The list contains overlaps in those cases where entities are geographically separated from their main entity and where a resulting interchange requirement justifies a separate code...." [ISO 3166-1988, paragraph 3.2]. So far, it appears that the maintenance agency is also going to retain the code MO for Macau.

Country overview: 

Short nameMACAU
ISO codeMO
LanguagePortuguese (pt)
Time zone+8


Macau has been a Portuguese colony since the age of exploration. After a Sino-Portuguese treaty of 1887-12-01, its status became that of a Portuguese territory. In 1961 it was made an overseas province of Portugal. A statute of 1976-02-17 redefined it as a collective entity. On 1987-04-13, Portugal agreed that Macau would be ceded to China on 1999-12-20. On that date, Macau became a special administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

Spelling note: There has been a lot of confusion over whether to use Macau or Macao in English. The CIA World Factbook has used Macau since 1989 or earlier. FIPS 10-3 and its successors also use Macau. The British Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, however, uses Macao. The Corpus of Contemporary American English is a representative 450-million-word sample of American writing and speech. It records 611 uses of Macau against 172 of Macao. The British National Corpus, with 100 million words, contains 26 instances of Macau and 109 of Macao. So far, it sounds like a case of British English differing from American English. Google ngrams paints a different picture. This program searches millions of books that Google has digitized, and graphs the frequency of a word or phrase by year. Searches can be limited to American or British books. According to it, Macao has almost always predominated, but around 1993 Macau had a sudden surge. Now Macau accounts for almost half the occurrences in American English and over 40% of the occurrences in British English. And now, a new resource has emerged: the Corpus of Global Web-based English, with 1.9 billion words collected from the Internet, organized by country of origin. Among all of its texts, Macau is about five times as frequent as Macao. In U.S. sources, Macau is over three times as common as Macao. In U.K. sources, Macau is almost six times as common. Singapore is the country where Macau is most preferred, by more than 14 to one. English Wikipedia currently uses Macau as a headword, and mentions the alternate spelling. In Portuguese, Macau has been the spelling for centuries. Conclusion: in English, Macao is not wrong, but Macau is better.

Other names of country: 

  1. Dutch: Macao
  2. French: Macao
  3. German: Macau
  4. Italian: Macao
  5. Norwegian: Macao
  6. Portuguese: Macau f
  7. Russian: Макао, Специальный административный район Аомынь (formal)
  8. Spanish: Macao
  9. Swedish: Macao
  10. Turkish: Makao Özel Çin İdaresi (formal)

Origin of name: 

Chinese A-mangao: bay of A-ma (patron goddess of sailors)

Primary subdivisions: 

Macau is divided into two concelhos (districts).

2 districts650,8343012

Further subdivisions:

See the Parishes of Macau page.

Macau district is subdivided into five freguesias (parishes): Nossa Senhora de Fátima, Santo António, Santo Lázaro, Santo Lourenço, and Sé.

Territorial extent: 

  1. Ilhas consists of the islands of Coloane and Taipa.
  2. Macau occupies a peninsula off the Chinese mainland.

The UN LOCODE page  for Macau lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.

Origins of names: 

Ilhas: Portuguese for islands

Population history:

Ilhas8,719 5,864 8,047 7,000 9,795 44,690 82,759 129,648


Totals include "maritime population," people living on houseboats. The populations for 1927, 1950, and 1960 are from source [3]; 1970, source [4]; 1980, source [1]; 2001, the DSEC site; 2011, source [2]; and 2016, source [5]. (The country's population at the census of 1991-08-30 was 355,693.)


  1. [1] Anuário Estatístico. Servicios de Estatística, Macau, 1981.
  2. [2] Results of 2011 Population Census . Direcção dos Serviços de Estatística e Censos (DSEC), Macao, 2012-05 (retrieved 2013-09-16).
  3. [3] The Encyclopædia Britannica World Atlas, 1951, 1957, and 1964 editions.
  4. [4] Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, Chicago, 1984.
  5. [5] Results of 2016 Population Census . Statistics and Census Service, 2016-05 (retrieved 2017-11-22).


  1. Sorin Cosoveanu
    2017-11-22 - Sent link to source [5].
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