base (version 3.6.2)

locales: Query or Set Aspects of the Locale


Get details of or set aspects of the locale for the R process.


Sys.getlocale(category = "LC_ALL")
Sys.setlocale(category = "LC_ALL", locale = "")



character string. The following categories should always be supported: "LC_ALL", "LC_COLLATE", "LC_CTYPE", "LC_MONETARY", "LC_NUMERIC" and "LC_TIME". Some systems (not Windows) will also support "LC_MESSAGES", "LC_PAPER" and "LC_MEASUREMENT".


character string. A valid locale name on the system in use. Normally "" (the default) will pick up the default locale for the system.


A character string of length one describing the locale in use (after setting for Sys.setlocale), or an empty character string if the current locale settings are invalid or NULL if locale information is unavailable.

For category = "LC_ALL" the details of the string are system-specific: it might be a single locale name or a set of locale names separated by "/" (Solaris, macOS) or ";" (Windows, Linux). For portability, it is best to query categories individually: it is not necessarily the case that the result of foo <- Sys.getlocale() can be used in Sys.setlocale("LC_ALL", locale = foo).

Available locales

On most Unix-alikes the POSIX shell command locale -a will list the ‘available public’ locales. What that means is platform-dependent. On recent Linuxen this may mean ‘available to be installed’ as on some RPM-based systems the locale data is in separate RPMs. On Debian/Ubuntu the set of available locales is managed by OS-specific facilities such as locale-gen and locale -a lists those currently enabled.

For Windows, Microsoft moves its documentation frequently so a Web search is the best way to find current information.


Setting "LC_NUMERIC" to any value other than "C" may cause R to function anomalously, so gives a warning. Input conversions in R itself are unaffected, but the reading and writing of ASCII save files will be, as may packages which do their own input/output.

Setting it temporarily on a Unix-alike to produce graphical or text output may work well enough, but options(OutDec) is often preferable.

Almost all the output routines used by R itself under Windows ignore the setting of "LC_NUMERIC" since they make use of the Trio library which is not internationalized.


The locale describes aspects of the internationalization of a program. Initially most aspects of the locale of R are set to "C" (which is the default for the C language and reflects North-American usage -- also known as "POSIX"). R sets "LC_CTYPE" and "LC_COLLATE", which allow the use of a different character set and alphabetic comparisons in that character set (including the use of sort), "LC_MONETARY" (for use by Sys.localeconv) and "LC_TIME" may affect the behaviour of as.POSIXlt and strptime and functions which use them (but not date).

The first seven categories described here are those specified by POSIX. "LC_MESSAGES" will be "C" on systems that do not support message translation, and is not supported on Windows. Trying to use an unsupported category is an error for Sys.setlocale.

Note that setting category "LC_ALL" sets only categories "LC_COLLATE", "LC_CTYPE", "LC_MONETARY" and "LC_TIME".

Attempts to set an invalid locale are ignored. There may or may not be a warning, depending on the OS.

Attempts to change the character set (by Sys.setlocale("LC_CTYPE", ), if that implies a different character set) during a session may not work and are likely to lead to some confusion.

Note that the LANGUAGE environment variable has precedence over "LC_MESSAGES" in selecting the language for message translation on most R platforms.

On platforms where ICU is used for collation the locale used for collation can be reset by icuSetCollate. Except on Windows, the initial setting is taken from the "LC_COLLATE" category, and it is reset when this is changed by a call to Sys.setlocale.

See Also

strptime for uses of category = "LC_TIME". Sys.localeconv for details of numerical and monetary representations.

l10n_info gives some summary facts about the locale and its encoding.

The ‘R Installation and Administration’ manual for background on locales and how to find out locale names on your system.


Run this code
# }
Sys.setlocale("LC_TIME", "de")     # Solaris: details are OS-dependent
Sys.setlocale("LC_TIME", "de_DE")  # Many Unix-alikes
Sys.setlocale("LC_TIME", "de_DE.UTF-8")  # Linux, macOS, other Unix-alikes
Sys.setlocale("LC_TIME", "de_DE.utf8")   # some Linux versions
Sys.setlocale("LC_TIME", "German") # Windows
# }
Sys.getlocale("LC_PAPER")          # may or may not be set

# }
Sys.setlocale("LC_COLLATE", "C")   # turn off locale-specific sorting,
                                   # usually (but not on all platforms)
# }

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