Wales has had to put up with many things – having the English as neighbours for one – but now they have suffered the ignominy of being outranked by the Cayman Islands.

After four years of trying to secure the letters "cym", short for Cymru, as a Welsh domain name for internet addresses, they have been pipped by the tiny Caribbean outpost of the British Empire.

The Caymans already have the domain identity ".ky" for general use. But the country has also registered ".cym", dashing the hopes of the Welsh. The United Nations ruled that the Caymans, which has a population of 60,000 and covers a mere 364 square miles, has precedence because it is recognised as a state; Wales, with a population of three million and geography covering more than 8,000 square miles, is part of the UK.

The attempt by the Welsh to secure their own domain identity was made by the dotCYM campaign in support of the country's distinctive language and culture.

Siô* Jobbins, of dotCYM, expressed disappointment at the decision but said he was happy the attempt to secure a domain name for Wales had been well received by the UN.

The group has invited ideas for alternatives to ".cym". The most popular so far has been ".cymru". But, perhaps to the chagrin of nationalists, ".wales" is another option being considered. Suggestions have also included ".gwalia", in recognition of the "old romantic" name for Wales.

But Mr Jobbins said that ".wales" was unlikely to get widespread approval. "The bid for the domain name is principally to promote Welsh culture and the Welsh language, so it would be a bit odd to have the Anglicised name for the country," Mr Jobbins said. "

We would have liked to get "cym". It's very well known in Wales. You see it on car stickers. But I would be quite happy with another name. The important thing is the bid itself isn't in jeopardy."

The Welsh bid follows a similar campaign in Catalonia for its own internet domain name, in recognition of its distinct identity within Spain.

If a Welsh domain is approved, web surfers could register their own Welsh addresses for about £20, with any profits from the programme going back into developing computer services in the country.

The bid to secure a new domain costs £113,000 and the Welsh Assembly has contributed a £20,000 grant in the effort to get one. The campaign started in 2006.