Addressing with the What3Words system

Hi so I’ve offered to send as a swap a postcard to Germany using the What3Words as the location, I’ve just posted one to myself, of course I’d never send an official this way, but well?

If this works, would anyone be interested in doing the same?


Hi Ed,
I’m not an admin, but I guess the answer could be the following:

For sending official cards you should always use the address provided.

If you like to send using the What3Words system, please arrange private swaps for doing so.

Please be patient and wait a little to receive an answer from the Admins.


Although it sounds fun using What3Words, I guess @reisegern is right. But let’s see what @admins say.


Doesn’t that require the postal services to use What3Words? I believe delivery companies do sometimes, but I don’t know about postal services.


Yes. I’m not sure if they will hence the trail, lol. I’ve posted one to myself and will be sending one to Germany soon. This will be for direct swaps only if it works…

If you want to try it, then let me know… :slight_smile:

Maybe it would help writing “what3words” on the envelope/postcard, to help the postal workers figure out “what on earth is going on?”

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How does this work? I’m curious which language would one use and is this only for street address or also country? It also doesn’t give my previous address to the correct grid so I wonder how could it be delivered correctly then.

What’s that: What3Words???


An alternative address system. Basically they took Earth, split it all into 3 meters squares and every square has its own “address” which consists of three random words.

While general idea may work well for remote places or those without street names, I personally find it more confusing than helpful. How on earth anyone is supposed to know that boots.whale.selection is a postal address? :eyes: (I would definitely add ‘what3words’ if I was using it to send anything).
In addition, the website serves codes in more languages than just English, which imo doubles the confusion :stuck_out_tongue: I bet an envelope with nothing but buty.wieloryb.selekcja has a high chance to be trashed as undeliverable in Poland, even more than its English counterpart lol.

On the same note, Google has its open source project too, called Plus Codes - the premise is the same: every square on Google Maps has its own Plus Code. In this case the code looks more like a postal one. For example place I like to visit has assigned 9C5M7V4Q+Q5 as a code. While it still looks confusing if one doesn’t know a thing like that exists, at least it looks like something randomly generated and not someone trolling postal workers :stuck_out_tongue: Also Plus Code has one advantage - if put in Google search, it’s correctly interpreted as a place and the first result is a map showing where it is.


It has another problem: codes are not unique. I’ve searched the 3 words for my door. Then I’ve searched those three words and I got… Three possibilities!: One, my home; another place in South America (I can understand that as we’ve got Spanish in common); and a place in the middle of a Russian forest not far from the Finnish border :thinking:


as Genevril already explained it is an alternative way of writing adresses. It was originally invented to give very sparcely populated areas that don’t have real adresses an adress linked to the locations GPS data.
I read in an article of 2016 that the postal services of Mongolia have adopted this system because there are still many nomadic people.
Additionally I found an article of 2020 recounting an experiment of DPD in Germany. Apparently the what3words system was more time efficient for drivers because they were able to plan their parking and walking routes more effectively.
Another application this system may be useful for is with emergency services - imagine a person has a heart attack somewhere in a huge shopping mall - because the grid is so exact with its dimension of 3 by 3 meters a medic could reach the patient much quicker instead of having to search the mall first.

Anyway, it was me who brought up this topic in another thread and Ed was the first to respond. He is sending a card within the UK and one to me. I will send a card from Germany to the same location in the UK as Ed does. Since Deutsche Post will be the first ones dealing with my card I got the three words for Eds location in German. (No, it will not work to just translate Eds english words into german - I had to get the german words through the system). This is what the adress of my card to Ed looks like:

I will buy a 5 cent stamp with matrix code and add it to the postage in order to be able to track my card at least within Germany.
Meanwhile Ed will send a card to my adress here in Germany but he is using the three words location code in English to give Royal Mail a chance to understand what’s going on and send it my way.

I doubt that this system will be implemented as a standard anytime soon, particularly not when sending to another country. But Ed and I are very curious what will happen and we will report back.


There are 3 possibilities for my front door too, just with slight alterations (one word pluralised etc)

I think W3W is great for services like mountain rescue but I wouldn’t burden my postperson with it. A map is likely to be totally intuitive especially for the postal workers that walk a route but asking them to deliver from something that needs an app seems unfair. After all, that’s what a postcode /zip codes is for


yes, the devil is indeed in the detail here. Plurals matter.


I know there is another discussion regarding Obscure addressing of mail.

Surely ’What Three Words’ is primarily aimed at assisting emergency service workers is finding people in remote locations.

Don’t our postal networks have enough to deal with, especially during a Pandemic?

I admire the idea, but personally think its abit ambiguous (and inappropriate) for sending postcards.

*OK Edit

Intially when I saw ‘What Three Words’ advertised it was for assisting find a place in the world.
Now many people use if for leisure and business purposes. Still it can be ambiguous, hence why the country and its English/German equivalent should be written.

If I was to use this system, I would have used it alongside an existing postal address.

What was talked about in another topic, are one offs and primarily domestic mail in rural settings.


wouldn’t it work better to write down the words/address in the language of the country of destionation? in the off chance your card will get to england, how will they understand what to do with 3 random german words?

I am kinda counting on Deutsche Post here. I hope that once they figure out where this is meant to go they will make a note of the “normal“ adress on the card. But you are right, it may be the wrong way to go about it. We will see…

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That was my first thought!


Hi yeah, done that… :slight_smile:

Hi ALL… I want to say thank you… I agree with @Maddymail that ALL postal workers in any country have done a great job in the pandemic, they were doing one before it as well and will continue to do so.

This is a bit of fun it’ll never I’m sure replace proper postal address, as the key is in the detail of which exact three words you use. When I tried to find @anon84030332 I was given three choices, but it was easy to see the difference’s…

I guess it’s be nice to start a tag or thread for this so that those who are brave enough, and want to give it a go can, for those who think it’s bit daft, extreme or well not for them, no worries.

To me part of sending something is that once it leaves you, we all trust that it’ll arrive in one piece and in due course, that is to say not in a year from the day we send it, but at least in a reasonable amount of time.

Thank you postal workers, and thank you to everyone reading this, take care all.


They’re not exactly the same, but the differences are small. Dog vs Dogs, Live vs Lived and so on. And the 3 destinations with very similar words will be far, far away from each other.

Here’s an example. While the lastest 2 words are identical, the first word is different.