Address (geography)

An address is a code and abstract concept expressing the fixed location of a home, business or other building on the earth's surface.


Addresses have several functions:

  1. Providing a means of physically locating a building, especially in a city where there are many buildings and streets,
  2. Identifying buildings as the end points of a postal system,
  3. A social function: someone's address can have a profound effect on their social standing,
  4. As parameters in statistics collection, especially in census-taking or the insurance industry.


Until the advent of modern postal systems, most houses and buildings were not numbered. Streets may have been named for landmarks, such as a city gate or market, or for the professions of their inhabitants. In many cities in Asia, most minor streets were never named. This is still the case today in much of Japan. When postal systems were introduced, it became necessary to number buildings to aid in mail delivery.

Current addressing schemes

House numbering or naming

In most English-speaking countries the standard is an alternating numbering scheme progressing in one direction along a street, with odd numbers on one side (usually west or south) and even numbers on the other (usually north or east), although there is significant variation on this basic pattern. Cities in North America, particularly those planned on a grid plan, often incorporate block numbers, quadrants (explained below), and cardinal directions into their street numbers, so that in many such cities, addresses roughly follow a Cartesian coordinate system. Some other cities around the world have their own schemes.

Although house numbering is the principal identification scheme in many parts of the world, it is also common for houses in the United Kingdom and Ireland to be identified by name, rather than number, especially in small towns. In these cases, the street name will usually follow the house name. A fictional example of such an address might read: "Smith Cottage, Frog Lane, Barchester, Barsetshire, BA9 9BA" or "Dunroamin, Emo, Co. Laois, Ireland".


In cities with Cartesian-coordinate-based addressing systems, the streets that form the north-south and east-west dividing lines constitute the x and y axes of a Cartesian coordinate plane and thus divide the city into quadrants. The quadrants are typically identified in the street names, although the manner of doing so varies from city to city. For example, in one city, all streets in the northeast quadrant may have "NE" prefixed or suffixed to their street names, while in another, the intersection of North Calvert Street and East 27th Street can only be in the northeast quadrant.

Street-naming conventions

Street names may follow a variety of themes. In many North American cities, such as Manhattan, San Francisco and Edmonton, streets are simply numbered sequentially across the street grid. Washington, D.C. has its numbered streets running north-south and lettered or alphabetically named streets running east-west, while diagonal avenues are typically named after states. In Salt Lake City, and many other Utah cities, streets are in a large grid and are numbered in increments of 100 based on their location relative to the center of the city in blocks, these blocks are usually surrounded by wide streets numbered in multiples of 400. A similar system is in use in Detroit with the Mile Road System. In some housing developments in North America, streets may all follow the same theme (for example, bird species), or start with the same letter. Streets in Continental Europe and Latin America are usually named after famous people or auspicious dates.

Postal codes

Postal codes are a relatively recent development in addressing, designed to speed the sorting and processing of mail by assigning unique numeric or alphanumeric codes to each geographical locality.

Postal alternatives to physical addresses

For privacy and other purposes, postal services have made it possible to receive mail without revealing one's physical address or even having a fixed physical address. Examples are post office boxes and poste restante (general delivery).

Address format

In most of the world, addresses are written in order from most specific to general information, starting with the addressee and ending with the largest geographical unit. For example:
Example Format
Mr. G. A. Payne
30 Commercial Rd.
Company Name
City Area/District
Postal Code

In English-speaking countries, the postal code usually comes last. In much of Europe, the code precedes the town name, thus: "1010 Lausanne". Often, the country code is still placed in front of the postal code: "CH-1010 Lausanne". However, this is no longer recommended by postal authorities.

If a house number is provided, it is written on the same line as the street name; a house name is written on the previous line. When addresses are written inline, line breaks are replaced by commas. Conventions on the placing of house numbers differ: either before or after the street name. Similarly, there are differences in the placement of postal codes: in the UK, they are written on a separate line at the end of the address; in the United States and Canada, they often appear immediately after the state or province, on the same line; in Austria, Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands they appear before the city, on the same line.

East Asian addressing systems, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean addressing systems, when written in their native scripts, use the opposite ordering, starting with the province/prefecture, ending with the addressee. However both have the same order as western countries when written in the Latin alphabet. The Hungarian system also goes from large to small units, except the name of the addressee is put into the first line.

The Universal Postal Convention strongly recommends the following:

"The addressee's address shall be worded in a precise and complete manner. It shall be written very legibly in roman letters and arabic numerals. If other letters and numerals are used in the country of destination, it shall be recommended that the address be given also in these letters and numerals. The name of the place of destination and the name of the country of destination shall be written in capital letters together with the correct postcode number or delivery zone number, if any. The name of the country of destination shall be written preferably in the language of the country of origin. To avoid any difficulty in the countries of transit, it is desirable for the name of the country of destination to be added in an internationally known language. Administrations may recommend that, on items addressed to countries where the recommended position of the postcode is in front of the name of the location of destination, the postcode should be preceded by the EN ISO 3166–1 Alpha 2 country code followed by a hyphen. This shall in no way detract from the requirement for the name of the destination country to be printed in full.

Mailing address format by country


Australian address are based on the same system used in the UK and USA.

If the location is a flat or unit, then the street number should be preceded by "Flat" or "Unit" and the flat or unit number, e.g. "Flat 4  201 Broadway Ave" or "Unit 2  203 Broadway Ave". Another common way of expressing a flat or unit number is to write the flat or unit number and then the number of the street address, separated by a slash (/), e.g. "4/201 Broadway Ave" or "2/203 Broadway Ave". The street number and name line are replaced by "PO Box", "GPO Box" or "Reply Paid" and a number when applicable, e.g. "PO Box 123" or "Reply Paid 123". GPO Boxes are always in the state or territory capital city.

Some large organisations such as universities do not use a street name or suburb, although the postcode is generally the same as the surrounding suburb.

The last line should always be spelt in all capitals with no punctuation. The state or territory is typically abbreviated to the conventional two or three letter form. Handwritten mail should use the postcode boxes on the envelope if they are present.

Note that "suburb" in Australia refers to a geographical subdivision of a metropolitan area. This portion of the address does not usually correspond to any political division, but is generally used by Australians for identifying parts of cities. These are nevertheless quite different from British postal towns (see below).

Example John Citizen
15 Sample St


You can write the address in Dutch or in French. If you're not sure what is the language of your customer, it can be better to write it in both languages.


In Brazil, an address must be mailed this way:
Format Name
Streetname, number, complements (if exists)
Municipality - State
Postal code


Canada uses a similar system to the United States (below), but there are key differences.

  • Only Canada Post can deliver to a P.O. Box. For this reason the recipient may choose to insert their physical (also known as street) address as line two, expanding the complete address to four lines. Providing both allows a sender to ship via the Canada Post or via a private carrier. Some locations have special drop-off points for couriers, such as a local convenience store. This is most common in small communities of around 30 people.
  • Mail will be delivered to the line immediately above the city, province, postal code line.
  • The province and type of street, e.g. Lane, is often abbreviated as shown in the PO standard.
  • Do not use periods or commas. Cardinal directions like North, North West, etc. can be abbreviated in either English or French, and appear after the street name. Ordinal numbered streets (e.g. 6th, 2nd) can be written in either English or French.
  • The postal code is used in the same way as the US Zip code. Postal codes come in a letter-number-letter-space-number-letter-number format, for example: A1A 1A1. There should be two spaces between the province abbreviation and the postal code.
  • If sending a parcel from outside Canada, the word "CANADA" must be placed at the very bottom.
  • See Canada Post's Addressing Guidelines for accurate, up to date information.

People's Republic of China

The postal address in the People's Republic of China, when written in Chinese characters, has the order of the largest unit first, ending with the addressee, i.e. country, province, municipality, town, street or road, building name, floor/level, house/flat number, company name, addressee. This is the most common language used when posting within the country.
P.R. China 528400
P.R. China 528400
Guangdong Province, Zhongshan City, East District, Hengda Garden, 7th Building, Room 702
To: Mr Xiaoming Zhang
Country, Postal Code
Province, City, District, Building Name, House Number

The whole address is commonly written as a string of characters with no particular format regarding where a new line would start, similar to one long sentence, with any new lines appearing depending on the space available on the envelope. Generally, the country is omitted when posting within PRC.

However, when written in English, the format is similar to English-speaking countries, with smallest unit first, ending in the largest.

Example Format
Mr. Zhimin Li
62 Renmin lu, Qingdao Shi
civil status, first name and family name
thoroughfare name and number, city
postcode and province
Mrs. Jiaying Chen
6 Xujiazhai, Huaqiaocun
Xinzhong Xiang, Tiantai Xian
civil status, first name and family name
locality name and number, village
county’s subdivision and county city
postcode and province
Postal Science Research and Planing Academy
65 Jiancaicheng Xilu, Haidian Qu
100096 BEIJING
company name
thoroughfare name and number, district
postcode and province

Czech Republic

Common format in Czech Republic:
Format Company
Name or Department
Street name + number
Postal code
Postal code is in format "### ##" (i.e. 158 00 = Prague 58) or "CZ-### ##".


Finland uses a five-digit postal number.


In Germany, the address is generally formatted as follows:
Format Company
Name (generally preceded by Frau=Ms or Herr=Mr)
Streetname + number
Postal code + town

The postal code is unique, and always consists of five numbers. The neighbourhood is only required if two streets in a municipality share the same postal code, which is extremely rare. When sending private mail to someone's business address the name comes first, followed by the company's name. This indicates that the mail should not be opened by someone else, unlike the above format, where mail could be opened by a colleague of the addressee.


In Hungarian mail addresses, the town name precedes the street address.
Format Addressee (name or company name)
City or town
Street name and number or P.O.Box number
Postal code


An internal address, in Italy, must be composed of three to five rows. Up to six rows can be used if the mail is sent abroad:
Format Addressee's name and surname
Optional - Additional information about the addressee
Optional - Additional information about the building (building number, floor, apartment number)
Street name and number (via/viale/corso/piazza...) or CASELLA POSTALE (P.O.Box number)
Postcode Town (Province abbreviation)
Foreign State name

Line ordering may not be changed.


New Zealand

New Zealand Post recommends the following format:
Example Format
Mr J Smith
ABC Limited

888 Queen Street
East End
Waikikamukau 0000
Personal Name
Company Name
Floor number
Flat number/House number Street address or PO Box number‘’
Suburb or RD Number or PO Box lobby name (if not the same as the town/city)
Town/City Postcode
COUNTRY (if other than New Zealand)''

Note that no space or full stops exists between P and O in PO Box or R and D in RD. One should only put one space between the town/city and the postcode.

Note for Auckland and Wellington metropolitan areas, you should use the city name (i.e. Auckland, North Shore, Waitakere, Manukau, Wellington, Lower Hutt, Upper Hutt, Porirua) , not the metropoitain area name. For example, mail to the Auckland metropolitan suburb of Henderson, should be addressed as Henderson, Waitakere - not Henderson, Auckland. One oddity about this system is the Wellington Mail Centre, which is addressed as Wellington Mail Centre, Lower Hutt 5045 - not Wellington as many people would think.


In the Netherlands, the address is generally formatted as follows:
Example Format
(Businesspark name etc.)

Streetname + number
Postal code + town
&Country - Optional
Thomas van der Landen

Boschdijk 1092

The postal code is unique, and always consists of four numbers followed by a space and then 2 capital letters. TNT Post, the descendant of the Dutch state-run PTT, recommends putting two spaces between postal code and town, and also printing the town in capital letters.

It is also possible to replace the street name line with a PO box (e.g. "Postbus 1200") or freepost number (e.g. "Antwoordnummer 150"), which have their own postal code.


In Norway, the address is generally formatted as follows:
Format Name
(Businesspark name etc.)
Streetname + number

Postal code + town

The postal code is unique, and is always uses a four-digit number. It is also possible to replace the street name line with a PO box (e.g. Postboks 250).

Russia, Belarus

Russia, Belarus, and some other post-Soviet countries have retained the address format used in the USSR. In domestic mail, the address starts with the city name, followed by street name, building number, apartment number (if any), and the addressee's name. Many pre-printed envelopes have a special field for entering the postal code, or if lacking that, it can be written before the city name.

Some neighborhoods may be planned in such a way that some, or most, apartment buildings don't face a named street. In this case, a number of expedients can be used. In older neighborhoods, such as the historical center of Moscow, a "main" building may have the same number as one or more "subsidiary" buildings accessible via driveways behind the main building. They will be addressed as e.g. ul. Lenina, d. 123, i.e. 123 Lenin St) An address may also cover one or more subsidiary buildings behind the main building, addressed as ul. Lenina, d. 123, str. 2 (123 Lenin St, unit 2, where str. (abbreviation for строение, stroenie) means a '(subsidiary) building'. In newer areas with more regular street plans, apartment buildings that don't face a named street may be designated with Cyrillic letters appended to the building number, e.g. 123-а, 123-б, etc., in alphabetic order.

In some microraion neighborhoods, with few, if any, buildings facing named streets, the name (or more likely number of the microraion (planned housing development)) would be used instead of the street name; thus someone may live at 4-th microrayon, d. 123, kv. 56, i.e. 123 - 4th Microraion, apt. 56.


SingPost recommends the following format for addresses:
Example Format
Ms. Tan Bee Soo
16 Sandilands Road
Name of addressee
Street number and name
Name of town + Postcode
Mr. M. Rajendran
Blk 35 Mandalay Road
# 13–37 Mandalay Towers
Name of addressee
Block number and street name
Floor – Apartment number + Building name
Name of town + Postcode
Generally, the last line REP. OF SINGAPORE is omitted when posting within the country. Addresses are written usually in the English language.


In Sweden, the address is generally formatted as follows:
Format Name
(Businesspark name, c/o-address etc.)
Streetname + number
Postal code + town
The postal code is unique, and is always a five-digit number divided into groups of three and two (e.g. 414 73). It is also possible to replace the street name line with a PO box (e.g. Box 51).

United Kingdom

The minimum required format for an address is:
Format Addressee's Name
Number + Street Name

This is the format preferred by Royal Mail. The locality is only required where its absence would be ambiguous. Post towns, which should be written in block capitals, rarely correspond to political boundaries and often group places that for all other purposes are quite separate. Sometimes the local authority or postal county is included after the post town. The postcode should be on its own line and should be the last line unless the country is also included.

United States

Format Variations:

  • Only the USPS can deliver to a P.O. Box. For this reason the recipient may choose to insert their physical (aka street) address as line two, expanding the complete address to four lines. Providing both allows a sender to ship via the USPS or via a private carrier.
  • Mail will be delivered to the line immediately above the city, state, zip code line.
  • The state and type of street, e.g. Lane, is often abbreviated as shown in the PO standard.

Do not use periods or commas.


See also

External links

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