Module java.base
Package java.util

Class Locale

All Implemented Interfaces:
Serializable, Cloneable

public final class Locale extends Object implements Cloneable, Serializable
A Locale object represents a specific geographical, political, or cultural region. An operation that requires a Locale to perform its task is called locale-sensitive and uses the Locale to tailor information for the user. For example, displaying a number is a locale-sensitive operation— the number should be formatted according to the customs and conventions of the user's native country, region, or culture.

The Locale class implements IETF BCP 47 which is composed of RFC 4647 "Matching of Language Tags" and RFC 5646 "Tags for Identifying Languages" with support for the LDML (UTS#35, "Unicode Locale Data Markup Language") BCP 47-compatible extensions for locale data exchange.

A Locale object logically consists of the fields described below.

ISO 639 alpha-2 or alpha-3 language code, or registered language subtags up to 8 alpha letters (for future enhancements). When a language has both an alpha-2 code and an alpha-3 code, the alpha-2 code must be used. You can find a full list of valid language codes in the IANA Language Subtag Registry (search for "Type: language"). The language field is case insensitive, but Locale always canonicalizes to lower case.
Well-formed language values have the form [a-zA-Z]{2,8}. Note that this is not the full BCP47 language production, since it excludes extlang. They are not needed since modern three-letter language codes replace them.
Example: "en" (English), "ja" (Japanese), "kok" (Konkani)
ISO 15924 alpha-4 script code. You can find a full list of valid script codes in the IANA Language Subtag Registry (search for "Type: script"). The script field is case insensitive, but Locale always canonicalizes to title case (the first letter is upper case and the rest of the letters are lower case).
Well-formed script values have the form [a-zA-Z]{4}
Example: "Latn" (Latin), "Cyrl" (Cyrillic)
country (region)
ISO 3166 alpha-2 country code or UN M.49 numeric-3 area code. You can find a full list of valid country and region codes in the IANA Language Subtag Registry (search for "Type: region"). The country (region) field is case insensitive, but Locale always canonicalizes to upper case.
Well-formed country/region values have the form [a-zA-Z]{2} | [0-9]{3}
Example: "US" (United States), "FR" (France), "029" (Caribbean)
Any arbitrary value used to indicate a variation of a Locale. Where there are two or more variant values each indicating its own semantics, these values should be ordered by importance, with most important first, separated by underscore('_'). The variant field is case sensitive.
Note: IETF BCP 47 places syntactic restrictions on variant subtags. Also BCP 47 subtags are strictly used to indicate additional variations that define a language or its dialects that are not covered by any combinations of language, script and region subtags. You can find a full list of valid variant codes in the IANA Language Subtag Registry (search for "Type: variant").

However, the variant field in Locale has historically been used for any kind of variation, not just language variations. For example, some supported variants available in Java SE Runtime Environments indicate alternative cultural behaviors such as calendar type or number script. In BCP 47 this kind of information, which does not identify the language, is supported by extension subtags or private use subtags.

Well-formed variant values have the form SUBTAG (('_'|'-') SUBTAG)* where SUBTAG = [0-9][0-9a-zA-Z]{3} | [0-9a-zA-Z]{5,8}. (Note: BCP 47 only uses hyphen ('-') as a delimiter, this is more lenient).
Example: "polyton" (Polytonic Greek), "POSIX"
A map from single character keys to string values, indicating extensions apart from language identification. The extensions in Locale implement the semantics and syntax of BCP 47 extension subtags and private use subtags. The extensions are case insensitive, but Locale canonicalizes all extension keys and values to lower case. Note that extensions cannot have empty values.
Well-formed keys are single characters from the set [0-9a-zA-Z]. Well-formed values have the form SUBTAG ('-' SUBTAG)* where for the key 'x' SUBTAG = [0-9a-zA-Z]{1,8} and for other keys SUBTAG = [0-9a-zA-Z]{2,8} (that is, 'x' allows single-character subtags).
Example: key="u"/value="ca-japanese" (Japanese Calendar), key="x"/value="java-1-7"
Note: Although BCP 47 requires field values to be registered in the IANA Language Subtag Registry, the Locale class does not provide any validation features. The Builder only checks if an individual field satisfies the syntactic requirement (is well-formed), but does not validate the value itself. See Locale.Builder for details.

Unicode locale/language extension

UTS#35, "Unicode Locale Data Markup Language" defines optional attributes and keywords to override or refine the default behavior associated with a locale. A keyword is represented by a pair of key and type. For example, "nu-thai" indicates that Thai local digits (value:"thai") should be used for formatting numbers (key:"nu").

The keywords are mapped to a BCP 47 extension value using the extension key 'u' (UNICODE_LOCALE_EXTENSION). The above example, "nu-thai", becomes the extension "u-nu-thai".

Thus, when a Locale object contains Unicode locale attributes and keywords, getExtension(UNICODE_LOCALE_EXTENSION) will return a String representing this information, for example, "nu-thai". The Locale class also provides getUnicodeLocaleAttributes(), getUnicodeLocaleKeys(), and getUnicodeLocaleType(java.lang.String) which allow you to access Unicode locale attributes and key/type pairs directly. When represented as a string, the Unicode Locale Extension lists attributes alphabetically, followed by key/type sequences with keys listed alphabetically (the order of subtags comprising a key's type is fixed when the type is defined)

A well-formed locale key has the form [0-9a-zA-Z]{2}. A well-formed locale type has the form "" | [0-9a-zA-Z]{3,8} ('-' [0-9a-zA-Z]{3,8})* (it can be empty, or a series of subtags 3-8 alphanums in length). A well-formed locale attribute has the form [0-9a-zA-Z]{3,8} (it is a single subtag with the same form as a locale type subtag).

The Unicode locale extension specifies optional behavior in locale-sensitive services. Although the LDML specification defines various keys and values, actual locale-sensitive service implementations in a Java Runtime Environment might not support any particular Unicode locale attributes or key/type pairs.

Obtaining a Locale

There are several ways to obtain a Locale object.


Using Locale.Builder you can construct a Locale object that conforms to BCP 47 syntax.

Factory Methods

The method forLanguageTag(java.lang.String) obtains a Locale object for a well-formed BCP 47 language tag. The method of(String, String, String) and its overloads obtain a Locale object from given language, country, and/or variant defined above.

Locale Constants

The Locale class provides a number of convenient constants that you can use to obtain Locale objects for commonly used locales. For example, Locale.US is the Locale object for the United States.

Default Locale

The default Locale is provided for any locale-sensitive methods if no Locale is explicitly specified as an argument, such as DateFormat.getInstance(). The default Locale is determined at startup of the Java runtime and established in the following three phases:

  1. The locale-related system properties listed below are established from the host environment. Some system properties (except for user.language) may not have values from the host environment.
    Shows property keys and associated values
    Locale-related System Properties Key Description
    user.language language for the default Locale, such as "en" (English)
    user.script script for the default Locale, such as "Latn" (Latin) country for the default Locale, such as "US" (United States)
    user.variant variant for the default Locale, such as "POSIX"
    user.extensions extensions for the default Locale, such as "u-ca-japanese" (Japanese Calendar)
  2. The values of these system properties can be overridden by values designated at startup time. If the overriding value of the user.extensions property is unparsable, it is ignored. The overriding values of other properties are not checked for syntax or validity and are used directly in the default Locale. (Typically, system property values can be provided using the -D command-line option of a launcher. For example, specifying -Duser.extensions=foobarbaz results in a default Locale with no extensions, while specifying -Duser.language=foobarbaz results in a default Locale whose language is "foobarbaz".)
  3. The default Locale instance is constructed from the values of these system properties.

Altering the system property values with System.setProperties(Properties)/ System.setProperty(String, String) has no effect on the default Locale.

Once the default Locale is established, applications can query the default Locale with getDefault() and change it with setDefault(Locale). If the default Locale is changed with setDefault(Locale), the corresponding system properties are not altered. It is not recommended that applications read these system properties and parse or interpret them as their values may be out of date.

There are finer-grained default Locales specific for each Locale.Category. These category specific default Locales can be queried by getDefault(Category), and set by setDefault(Category, Locale). Construction of these category specific default Locales are determined by the corresponding system properties, which consist of the base system properties as listed above, suffixed by either ".display" or ".format" depending on the category. For example, the value of the user.language.display system property will be used in the language part of the default Locale for the Locale.Category.DISPLAY category. In the absence of category specific system properties, the "category-less" system properties are used, such as user.language in the previous example.

Locale Matching

If an application or a system is internationalized and provides localized resources for multiple locales, it sometimes needs to find one or more locales (or language tags) which meet each user's specific preferences. Note that a term "language tag" is used interchangeably with "locale" in this locale matching documentation.

In order to do matching a user's preferred locales to a set of language tags, RFC 4647 Matching of Language Tags defines two mechanisms: filtering and lookup. Filtering is used to get all matching locales, whereas lookup is to choose the best matching locale. Matching is done case-insensitively. These matching mechanisms are described in the following sections.

A user's preference is called a Language Priority List and is expressed as a list of language ranges. There are syntactically two types of language ranges: basic and extended. See Locale.LanguageRange for details.


The filtering operation returns all matching language tags. It is defined in RFC 4647 as follows: "In filtering, each language range represents the least specific language tag (that is, the language tag with fewest number of subtags) that is an acceptable match. All of the language tags in the matching set of tags will have an equal or greater number of subtags than the language range. Every non-wildcard subtag in the language range will appear in every one of the matching language tags."

There are two types of filtering: filtering for basic language ranges (called "basic filtering") and filtering for extended language ranges (called "extended filtering"). They may return different results by what kind of language ranges are included in the given Language Priority List. Locale.FilteringMode is a parameter to specify how filtering should be done.


The lookup operation returns the best matching language tags. It is defined in RFC 4647 as follows: "By contrast with filtering, each language range represents the most specific tag that is an acceptable match. The first matching tag found, according to the user's priority, is considered the closest match and is the item returned."

For example, if a Language Priority List consists of two language ranges, "zh-Hant-TW" and "en-US", in prioritized order, lookup method progressively searches the language tags below in order to find the best matching language tag.

    1. zh-Hant-TW
    2. zh-Hant
    3. zh
    4. en-US
    5. en
If there is a language tag which matches completely to a language range above, the language tag is returned.

"*" is the special language range, and it is ignored in lookup.

If multiple language tags match as a result of the subtag '*' included in a language range, the first matching language tag returned by an Iterator over a Collection of language tags is treated as the best matching one.

Use of Locale

Once you've obtained a Locale you can query it for information about itself. Use getCountry to get the country (or region) code and getLanguage to get the language code. You can use getDisplayCountry to get the name of the country suitable for displaying to the user. Similarly, you can use getDisplayLanguage to get the name of the language suitable for displaying to the user. Interestingly, the getDisplayXXX methods are themselves locale-sensitive and have two versions: one that uses the default DISPLAY locale and one that uses the locale specified as an argument.

The Java Platform provides a number of classes that perform locale-sensitive operations. For example, the NumberFormat class formats numbers, currency, and percentages in a locale-sensitive manner. Classes such as NumberFormat have several convenience methods for creating a default object of that type. For example, the NumberFormat class provides these three convenience methods for creating a default NumberFormat object:

Each of these methods has two variants; one with an explicit locale and one without; the latter uses the default FORMAT locale:
A Locale is the mechanism for identifying the kind of object (NumberFormat) that you would like to get. The locale is just a mechanism for identifying objects, not a container for the objects themselves.


In order to maintain compatibility, Locale's constructors retain their behavior prior to the Java Runtime Environment version 1.7. The same is largely true for the toString method. Thus Locale objects can continue to be used as they were. In particular, clients who parse the output of toString into language, country, and variant fields can continue to do so (although this is strongly discouraged), although the variant field will have additional information in it if script or extensions are present.

In addition, BCP 47 imposes syntax restrictions that are not imposed by Locale's constructors. This means that conversions between some Locales and BCP 47 language tags cannot be made without losing information. Thus toLanguageTag cannot represent the state of locales whose language, country, or variant do not conform to BCP 47.

Because of these issues, it is recommended that clients migrate away from constructing non-conforming locales and use the forLanguageTag and Locale.Builder APIs instead. Clients desiring a string representation of the complete locale can then always rely on toLanguageTag for this purpose.

Special cases

For compatibility reasons, two non-conforming locales are treated as special cases. These are ja_JP_JP and th_TH_TH. These are ill-formed in BCP 47 since the variants are too short. To ease migration to BCP 47, these are treated specially during construction. These two cases (and only these) cause a constructor to generate an extension, all other values behave exactly as they did prior to Java 7.

Java has used ja_JP_JP to represent Japanese as used in Japan together with the Japanese Imperial calendar. This is now representable using a Unicode locale extension, by specifying the Unicode locale key ca (for "calendar") and type japanese. When the Locale constructor is called with the arguments "ja", "JP", "JP", the extension "u-ca-japanese" is automatically added.

Java has used th_TH_TH to represent Thai as used in Thailand together with Thai digits. This is also now representable using a Unicode locale extension, by specifying the Unicode locale key nu (for "number") and value thai. When the Locale constructor is called with the arguments "th", "TH", "TH", the extension "u-nu-thai" is automatically added.


During serialization, writeObject writes all fields to the output stream, including extensions.

During deserialization, readResolve adds extensions as described in Special Cases, only for the two cases th_TH_TH and ja_JP_JP.

Legacy language codes

Locale's constructor has always converted three language codes to their earlier, obsoleted forms: he maps to iw, yi maps to ji, and id maps to in. Since Java SE 17, this is no longer the case. Each language maps to its new form; iw maps to he, ji maps to yi, and in maps to id.

For the backward compatible behavior, the system property java.locale.useOldISOCodes reverts the behavior back to that of before Java SE 17. If the system property is set to true, those three current language codes are mapped to their backward compatible forms. The property is only read at Java runtime startup and subsequent calls to System.setProperty() will have no effect.

The APIs added in 1.7 map between the old and new language codes, maintaining the mapped codes internal to Locale (so that getLanguage and toString reflect the mapped code, which depends on the java.locale.useOldISOCodes system property), but using the new codes in the BCP 47 language tag APIs (so that toLanguageTag reflects the new one). This preserves the equivalence between Locales no matter which code or API is used to construct them. Java's default resource bundle lookup mechanism also implements this mapping, so that resources can be named using either convention, see ResourceBundle.Control.

Three-letter language/country(region) codes

The Locale constructors have always specified that the language and the country param be two characters in length, although in practice they have accepted any length. The specification has now been relaxed to allow language codes of two to eight characters and country (region) codes of two to three characters, and in particular, three-letter language codes and three-digit region codes as specified in the IANA Language Subtag Registry. For compatibility, the implementation still does not impose a length constraint.

External Specifications
See Also: