Difference Between ZIP Code and Postal Code


Primary Difference

To send letters or other documents to different parts of the world there is always a specific address of the place where everything has to be delivered. The letters are delivered on those addresses so that they reach the person they are intended for. All over the world every place has a specific code to make it easier for the post deliverer. This set of specific code is separate for cities and then even more particular for a location. The two terms which are commonly used in this are called ZIP code and postal code which essentially have been called the same but there are minor differences between the two. The main difference is that the ZIP code is specifically a term used in the United States while Postal code is the term normally associated with the United Kingdom and the countries which had been ruled by the British. Another difference between them is that a ZIP code can be specific for a country or a city while a postal code is always for the locations within a city or a particular area. Every country, just like a dialing code, has a ZIP code which is its postal identity, while all the houses or building are then assigned a postal code which becomes recognizable. A postal code is more complex and can contain numerical values as well as alphabets and symbols while on the other hand a ZIP code usually consists of numbers only. Postal, the word itself is related to posting something while ZIP stands for Zoning Improvement System. Even in the broader meaning a ZIP code is defined as a postal code which has more than 5 digits. Some of these differences will be listed at the end while a brief explanation of both these terms is given in the next lines.

Comparison Chart

ZIP CodePostal Code
It is the short form for Zoning Improvement SystemA postal code is related to posting documents or mail related stuff.
usually associated with the United Statesusually associated with the United Kingdom
helps in identifying the exact bigger location.It is usually used within a country to deliver documents
Between 5-8 charactersCan be shorter or longer
Used within a countryUsed within a city

Definition of ZIP Code

When identifying which place to send the document to, on an international level there is always a need to know the exact code of the city in a country, this is done with the help of ZIP code which is known as Zoning Improvement System. This system started in the United States and therefore is mostly a term associated with Americans. It is also known as a version of postal code and the Oxford dictionary defines it as a postal code which is between 5-9 characters long. It does not always contain any alphabets and consists of just numbers and each country and the city where airmail is present has been assigned the code. For example, the ZIP code of New York consists of 5 numbers and ranges from 10001 and so on. This helps in dividing the city into different sectors where mail can be easily delivered.


Definition of Postal Code

When dividing the cities into various segments there is also the requirement of identifying the places where the mail will be sent. This is made possible by assigning a specific number of address to the houses or building (even shops) some sort of numerical or alphabetical value. Therefore, a postal address can consist of numbers and alphabets, it can be really long to really short depending on how easy it is to define the location. For example, the postal address of Madame Tussauds Museum is 234 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036, United States. Which helps identifying exactly where the building will be, in every way. It has the number, street address, zip code and the exact place.

Differences in a Nutshell

  1. ZIP code is the short form for Zoning Improvement System while a postal code is related to posting documents or mail related stuff.
  2. ZIP code is usually associated with the United States while the postal code is associated with the United Kingdom.
  3. Postal code is usually used within a country to deliver documents while a ZIP code helps in identifying the exact bigger location.
  4. A postal code can be shorter or longer while a ZIP code is between 5-8 characters usually.
  5. A postal code is used within a city, while a ZIP code is used within the countries.
  6. A ZIP code is mostly considered as a longer version of postal code according to the oxford dictionary definition.


ZIP code and Postal Code are two terms which belong to the same family but are very different from each other. There are many differences between them which have been mentioned above that help in creating a clear understanding of how they differ and then help people how they are working and what exactly goes on between them.

Harlon Moss

Harlon currently works as a quality moderator and content writer for Difference Wiki. He graduated from the University of California in 2010 with a degree in Computer Science. Follow him on Twitter @HarlonMoss