canton of Switzerland


The 26 cantons of Switzerland (german: Kanton; french: canton; it, cantone;
Sursilvan Sursilvan (; also ''romontsch sursilvan'' ; Sursilvan, Vallader Vallader (Vallader, Sursilvan, Puter, Surmiran, and Rumantsch Grischun: ''vallader'' ; Sutsilvan: ''valader'') is a variety of the Romansh language spoken in the Lower Engadine v ...
Surmiran Surmiran (Surmiran, Vallader, Sutsilvan, Rumantsch Grischun: ''surmiran''; Puter: ''surmiraun'') is a dialect of the Romansh language. It is spoken in Surmeir and in the Albula Valley in the Grisons, Grisons Canton, in Switzerland. The "Hail Mar ...
: ''cantun'';
Vallader Vallader (Vallader, Sursilvan, Puter, Surmiran, and Rumantsch Grischun: ''vallader'' ; Sutsilvan: ''valader'') is a variety of the Romansh language spoken in the Lower Engadine valley (''Engiadina Bassa'') of southeast Switzerland, between Mart ...
and Puter: ''Chantun'';
Sutsilvan Romansh (; sometimes also spelled Romansch and Rumantsch; Sursilvan Sursilvan (; also ''romontsch sursilvan'' ; Sursilvan, Vallader Vallader (Vallader, Sursilvan, Puter, Surmiran, and Rumantsch Grischun: ''vallader'' ; Sutsilvan: ''valad ...
: ''cantùn'';
Rumantsch Grischun Romansh (; sometimes also spelled Romansch and Rumantsch; Sursilvan Sursilvan (; also ''romontsch sursilvan'' ; Sursilvan, Vallader, Surmiran, Sutsilvan, and Rumantsch Grischun: ''sursilvan''; Puter: ''sursilvaun'') is a group of dialects of th ...
: ''chantun'') are the
member state A member state is a state that is a member of an international organization or of a federation or confederation. Since the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) include some members that are not sovereign states, ...
s of the
Swiss Confederation , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal s ...

Swiss Confederation
. The nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the form of the first three confederate allies used to be referred to as the Waldstätte. Two important periods in the development of the
Old Swiss Confederacy The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy (German language, Modern German: ; historically , after the Swiss Reformation, Reformation also , "Confederation of the Swiss (people), Swiss") was a loose confederation of independent small state ...
are summarized by the terms '' Acht Orte'' ("Eight Cantons"; from 1353–1481) and '' Dreizehn Orte'' ("Thirteen Cantons", from 1513–1798).rendered "the 'confederacy of eight'" and "the 'Thirteen-Canton Confederation'", respectively, in: Each canton of the
Old Swiss Confederacy The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy (German language, Modern German: ; historically , after the Swiss Reformation, Reformation also , "Confederation of the Swiss (people), Swiss") was a loose confederation of independent small state ...
, formerly also (from before 1450), or ("estate", from c. 1550), was a fully sovereignty, sovereign state with its own border controls, army, and currency from at least the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848, with a brief period of centralised government during the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803). The term ''Kanton'' has been widely used since the 19th century. "Die Bündnispartner der frühen Eidgenossenschaft wurden im 14. Jh. meist als Städte und Länder, ab der 1. Hälfte des 15. Jh. immer mehr als Orte bezeichnet." The number of cantons was increased to 19 with the Mediation (Switzerland), Act of Mediation (1803), with the recognition of former subject territories as full cantons. The Federal Treaty of 1815 increased the number to 22 due to the accession of former Old_Swiss_Confederacy#Associates, Old Swiss Confederacy Associates. The canton of Jura acceded as the 23rd canton with its Jurassic question, secession from Canton of Bern, Bern in 1979. The official number of cantons was increased to 26 in the Swiss Federal Constitution, federal constitution of 1999, which designated former half-cantons as cantons. The areas of the cantons vary from 37 km (canton of Basel-Stadt) to 7,105 km (Grisons, canton of the Grisons); the populations (as of 2018) range from 16,000 (canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden) to 1.5 million (canton of Zürich). With a very few exceptions, the capital (seat of government) of each canton is also the largest city.


The term '':wikt:canton, canton'', now also used as the English term for Canton (country subdivision), administrative subdivisions of other countries, originates in Middle French, French usage in the late 15th century (recorded in Fribourg in 1467), from a word for "edge, corner", at the time the literal translation of Early Modern High German ''ort''. After 1490, ''canton'' was increasingly used in French and Italian documents to refer to the members of the Swiss Confederacy. English use of '':wikt:canton, canton'' in reference to the Swiss Confederacy (as opposed to the Canton (heraldry), heraldic sense) dates to the early 17th century. In the Old Swiss Confederacy, the term '':wikt:Ort#German, Ort'' (plural: ''Orte'') was in use from the early 15th century as a generic term for the member cantons. The founding cantons specifically were also known as '' Waldstätte'' "forest settlements", "forest cantons" (singular: ''Waldstatt''). The formulaic ' for the members of the early confederacy is recorded in the mid-14th century, used interchangeably with ' ("cities and lands", "city cantons and rural cantons") until the late 15th century. ''Ort'' was increasingly replaced by ''Stand'' (plural: ''Stände'') "State (polity), estate" about 1550, a term taken to imply liberty and sovereignty. Abolished in the Helvetic Republic, the term was revived in 1815 and remains in use today. The French term ''canton'' adopted into German Peace of Westphalia, after 1648, and then only in occasional use until the early 19th century: prominent usage of ''Ort'' and ''Stand'' gradually disappeared in German-speaking Switzerland from the time of the Helvetic Republic. Only with the Act of Mediation of 1803 did German ''Kanton'' become an official designation, retained in the Swiss Constitution of 1848. The term ''Stand'' (french: état, it, stato) remains in synonymous usage and is reflected in the name of the upper chamber of the Swiss Parliament, the Council of States (Switzerland), Council of States (german: Ständerat, french: Conseil des États, it, Consiglio degli Stati, rm, Cussegl dals Stadis). In the modern era, since Neuchâtel ceased to be a principality in 1848, all Swiss cantons can be considered to have a Government#Republics, republican form of government. Some cantons formally describe themselves as republics in their constitutions. This applies to the Romance-speaking cantons in particular: canton of Geneva, Geneva (formally ''République et canton de Genève'' "Republic and canton of Geneva"), Canton of Jura, Jura, Canton of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, Canton of Valais, Valais, Canton of Vaud, Vaud and Ticino.


In the 16th century, the
Old Swiss Confederacy The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy (German language, Modern German: ; historically , after the Swiss Reformation, Reformation also , "Confederation of the Swiss (people), Swiss") was a loose confederation of independent small state ...
was composed of 13 sovereign confederate allies (the Thirteen Cantons; german: Die Dreizehn Alten Orte), and there were two different kinds: five rural states (german: Länder) – Canton of Uri, Uri, Canton of Schwyz, Schwyz (which became Name of Switzerland, eponymous of the confederacy), Unterwalden, Canton of Glarus, Glarus, Canton of Appenzell, Appenzell – and eight urban states (german: Städte) – Canton of Zürich, Zürich, Canton of Bern, Bern, Canton of Luzern, Luzern, Canton of Zug, Zug, Canton of Basel, Basel, Canton of Fribourg, Fribourg, Canton of Solothurn, Solothurn, Canton of Schaffhausen, Schaffhausen. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become ''de facto'' independent when the Swiss Battle of Dornach, defeated Emperor Maximilian I in 1499 in Dornach. In the early modern period, the individual confederate allies came to be seen as republics; while the six traditional allies had a tradition of direct democracy in the form of the ''Landsgemeinde'', the urban states operated via Representation (politics), representation in city councils, de facto oligarchy, oligarchic systems dominated by families of the patrician (post-Roman Europe), patriciate.Canton of Zug, Zug was the exception in this, in being an urban state and still holding a ''Landsgemeinde''. Jackson Spielvogel, ''Western Civilization: Volume I: To 1715'', (Cengage 2008), p. 386 The old system was abandoned with the formation of the Helvetic Republic following the French invasion of Switzerland in 1798. The cantons of the Helvetic Republic had merely the status of an Canton (country subdivision), administrative subdivision with no sovereignty. The Helvetic Republic collapsed within five years, and cantonal sovereignty was restored with the Act of Mediation of 1803. The status of Switzerland as a federation of states was restored, at the time including 19 cantons (the six accessions to the early modern Thirteen Cantons being composed of former associates and subject territories: Canton of St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Grisons, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud). Three additional western cantons, Canton of Valais, Valais, Canton of Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel and Canton of Geneva, Geneva, acceded in 1815. The process of "Restoration", completed by 1830, returned most of the former feudal rights to the cantonal Patrician (post-Roman Europe), patriciates, leading to rebellions among the rural population. The Liberalism and radicalism in Switzerland, Liberal Radical Party embodied these democratic forces calling for a new federal constitution. This tension, paired with religion in Switzerland, religious issues ("Jesuit question") escalated into armed conflict in the 1840s, with the brief Sonderbund War. The victory of the radical party resulted in the formation of Switzerland as a federal state in 1848. The cantons retained far-reaching sovereignty, but were no longer allowed to maintain individual standing armies or international relations. As the revolutions of 1848 in Western Europe had failed elsewhere, Switzerland during the later 19th century (and with the exception of the French Third Republic, until the end of World War I) found itself as an isolated democratic republic, surrounded by the restored monarchies of Second French Empire, France, Kingdom of Italy, Italy, Austria-Hungary and German Confederation, Germany.

Constitutions and powers

The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the cantons to be sovereign to the extent that their sovereignty is not limited by federal law. Areas specifically reserved to the Confederation are the armed forces, currency, the postal service, telecommunications, immigration into and emigration from the country, granting asylum, conducting foreign relations with sovereign states, civil and criminal law, weights and measures, and customs duties. Each canton has its own constitution, legislature, Executive (government), executive, Law enforcement in Switzerland, police and judiciary, courts. Similar to the Confederation, a directorial system of government is followed by the cantons. Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameralism, unicameral parliaments, their size varying between 58 and 200 seats. A few legislatures also involve or did involve general popular assemblies known as ''Landsgemeinden''; the use of this form of legislature has declined: at present it exists only in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Canton of Glarus, Glarus. The cantonal executives consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. For the names of the institutions, see the List of cantonal executives of Switzerland, list of cantonal executives and List of cantonal legislatures of Switzerland, list of cantonal legislatures. The cantons retain all powers and competencies not delegated to the Confederation by the federal constitution or law: most significantly the cantons are responsible for health care, healthcare, Welfare (financial aid), welfare, law enforcement, public education, and retain the power of Taxation in Switzerland, taxation. Each canton defines its official language(s). Cantons may conclude treaty, treaties not only with other cantons but also with foreign states (respectively Articles 48 and 56 of the Federal Constitution). The cantonal constitutions determine the internal organisation of the canton, including the degree of autonomy accorded to the Municipalities of Switzerland, municipalities, which varies but almost always includes the power to levy taxes and pass municipal laws; some municipalities have their own police forces. As at the federal level, all cantons provide for some form of direct democracy. Citizens may demand a popular vote to amend the cantonal constitution or laws, or to veto laws or spending bills passed by the parliament. Other than in the instances of general popular assemblies in Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, democratic rights are exercised by secret ballot. The Right of foreigners to vote in Switzerland, right of foreigners to vote varies by canton, as does whether Swiss citizens living abroad (and registered to vote in a canton) can take part in cantonal voting. Swiss nationality law, Swiss citizens are citizens of a particular municipality (the place of origin) and the canton in which that municipality is part. Cantons therefore have a role in and set requirements for the granting of citizenship (naturalisation), though the process is typically undertaken at a municipal level and is subject to federal law. Switzerland has only one federal public holiday (1 August); public holidays otherwise Public holidays in Switzerland, vary from canton to canton.


The cantons are listed in their order of precedence given in the federal constitution.This is the order generally used in Swiss official documents. At the head of the list are the three city cantons that were considered preeminent in the
Old Swiss Confederacy The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy (German language, Modern German: ; historically , after the Swiss Reformation, Reformation also , "Confederation of the Swiss (people), Swiss") was a loose confederation of independent small state ...
; the other cantons are listed in order of accession to the Confederation. This traditional order of precedence among the cantons has no practical relevance in the modern federal state, in which the cantons are equal to one another, although it still determines formal precedence among the cantons' officials (see Swiss order of precedence).
This reflects the historical order of precedence of the Eight Cantons in the 15th century, followed by the remaining cantons in the order of their historical accession to the confederacy. The two-letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on Vehicle registration plates of Switzerland, car license plates. They are also used in the ISO 3166-2:CH, ISO 3166-2 codes of Switzerland with the prefix "CH-" (''Confœderatio Helvetica''—Helvetian Confederation—''Helvetia#Name of Switzerland, Helvetia'' having been the ancient Roman name of the region). ''CH-SZ'', for example, is used for the canton of Schwyz.


Six of the 26 cantons are traditionally, but no longer officially, called "half-cantons" (german: Halbkanton, french: demi-canton, it, semicantone, rm, mez-chantun). In two instances (Basel and Appenzell) this was a consequence of a historic division, whilst in the case of Unterwalden a historic mutual association, resulting in three pairs of half-cantons. The other 20 cantons were, and in some instances still are—though only in a context where it is needed to distinguish them from any half-cantons—typically termed "full" cantons in English. The first article of the 1848 and 1874 constitutions constituted the Confederation as the union of "twenty-two sovereign cantons", referring to the half-cantons as "Unterwalden ( [‘Obwalden, above and Nidwalden, beneath the woods’])", "Basel ( [‘city and country’])" and "Appenzell ( [‘both Rhoden’])". The 1874 constitution was amended to list 23 cantons with the accession of the Canton of Jura in 1978. The historic half-cantons, and their pairings, are still recognizable in the first article of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1999 by being joined to their other "half" with the conjunction "and": The 1999 constitutional revision retained the traditional distinction, on the request of the six cantonal governments, as a way to mark the historic association of the half-cantons to each other. While the older constitutions referred to these states as "half-cantons", a term that remains in popular use, the 1999 revision and official terminology since then use the appellation "cantons with half of a cantonal vote". The Coins of the Swiss franc, ½, 1 and 2 francs coins as minted since 1874 represent the number of cantons by 22 stars surrounding the figure of Helvetia on the obverse. The design of the coins was altered to show 23 stars, including Jura, beginning with the 1983 batch. The design has remained unchanged since, and does not reflect the official number of "26 cantons" introduced in 1999. The reasons for the existence of the three pairs of half-cantons are varied: * Unterwalden never consisted of a single unified jurisdiction. Originally, Obwalden, Nidwalden, and the Abbey of Engelberg formed distinct communities. The collective term ''Unterwalden'' remains in use, however, for the area that partook in the creation of the original Swiss confederation in 1291 with Canton of Uri, Uri and Canton of Schwyz, Schwyz. The Federal Charter of 1291 called for representatives from each of the three "areas". * The historical canton of Appenzell divided itself into "inner" and "outer" halves (''Rhoden'') as a consequence of the Reformation in Switzerland in 1597: Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden (Catholicism, Catholic) and Canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Protestantism, Protestant). * The historical canton of Basel was divided in 1833 after the Basel countryside (which became the canton of Basel-Landschaft) declared its independence from the city of Basel (which became the canton of Basel-Stadt), following a period of protest and armed conflict about the under-representation of the more populous countryside in the canton's political system. With their original circumstances of partition now a historical matter, the half-cantons are since 1848 equal to the other cantons in all but two respects: * They elect only one member of the Swiss Council of States, Council of States instead of two (Cst. art. 150 par. 2). This means there are a total of 46 seats in the council. * In Voting in Switzerland#Constitutional referendums (Popular initiatives), popular referendums about constitutional amendments, which require for adoption a national popular majority as well as the assent of a majority of the cantons ('' / ''), the result of the half-cantons' popular vote counts only one half of that of the other cantons (Cst. arts. 140, 142). This means that for purposes of a constitutional referendum, at least 12 out of a total of 23 cantonal popular votes must support the amendment. Between 1831 and 1833 the canton of Schwyz divided into half-cantons: (Inner) Schwyz and the break-away Outer Schwyz; in this instance the half-cantons were forced by the Confederation to settle their disputes and re-unite. In the 20th century, some Jurassic separatism, Jurassic separatists suggested a new canton of Jura to be divided into half-cantons of North Jura and South Jura. Instead, North Jura became the (full) canton of Jura while South Jura remains in the canton of Bern as the Subdivisions of the canton of Bern, region of Bernese Jura.

Names in national languages

The name of each canton in its own official language is shown in bold.

Admission of new cantons

The enlargement of Switzerland by way of the admission of new cantons ended in 1815. The latest formal attempt considered by Switzerland was 1919 Vorarlberg referendum, in 1919 from Vorarlberg but subsequently rejected. A few representatives submitted in 2010 a parliamentary motion to consider enlargement although it was widely seen as anti-EU rhetoric rather than a serious proposal. The motion was eventually dropped and not even examined by the parliament.

See also

* Cantonal bank * Cantonal police * * Flags and arms of cantons of Switzerland * List of Swiss cantons by GDP * List of cantons of Switzerland by elevation

Notes and references




* . Cited as ''Ehrenzeller''. * Cited as ''Häfelin''.

External links
– The cantons of Switzerland
– Maps of the Cantons of Switzerland

ssemble cantons on a Swiss map
atabase on Swiss cantons and cities {{DEFAULTSORT:Cantons Of Switzerland Cantons of Switzerland, Subdivisions of Switzerland Lists of subdivisions of Switzerland, Cantons Administrative divisions in Europe, Switzerland 1 First-level administrative divisions by country, Cantons, Switzerland Lists of populated places in Switzerland