Swiss Place Names

Names of Swiss cities/towns, lakes, cantons

It is often unclear which name to use when referring to Swiss places given that there are four different mother tongues in the country, with certain areas being bilingual. The rule is given below, but this assumes an intimate knowledge of Swiss geography and linguistic borders. Hence, a full list is also included.

Use the English place name if one exists, unless this would appear very antiquated or obscure.

Otherwise, use German names for German-speaking and Rhaeto-Romanic-speaking places; Italian names for Italian-speaking places; and French names for both French-speaking and bilingual (French/German) places. For lakes, just say ‘Lake…’ and add the name of the largest town or city after it:

Lake Lucerne

Lake Geneva

Lake Constance


Further Swiss place names (German > English)

Aargau > Aargau (not Argovia, which sounds antiquated)

Basel > Basel (not Baal)

Bern > Bern

Biel > Biel / Bienne

Bodensee > Lake Constance

Chur > Chur (not Coire, which sounds antiquated)

Delsberg > Delémont

Engadin > Engadine

Freiburg > Fribourg

Genf > Geneva

Luzern > Lucerne (or: Lucern)

Magglingen > Macolin

Murten > Morat

Neuenburg > Neuchâtel

Sitten > Sion

Siders > Sierre

St. Gallen > St. Gallen

St. Moritz > St. Moritz

Vierwaldstättersee > Lake Lucerne

Waadt > Vaud

Wallis > Valais

Zürich > Zurich

Zürichsee > Lake Zurich