Geographic Names

Geographic Names


(toponyms), the names of continents, oceans, seas, currents, rivers, lakes, islands, mountains, deserts, swamps, natural landmarks, countries, cities, settlements, streets, farms, and all of the geographic objects on the surface of the earth.

The sum of geographic names forms a system or configuration of peculiarities and symbols that repeat themselves regularly in the process of the formation of toponyms and of their current relatively stable condition. Such a system in different countries of the world is always diverse in age and language, since it reflects the historical conditions of the country and the language of the people who now populate it and who have settled it in the past. Geographic names are often repeated, forming series characteristic for a given period. Thus, in the USSR several cities and settlements have such names as Komsomol’sk, Pervomaiskii (first of May) and Oktiabrskii (October). Examples of geographic names in many languages that express almost the same meaning (new city) are Novgorod (Russian), Naples (Italian), Novabad (Tadzhik), Newcastle (English), and Yengisehir (Turkic).

Among the classifications of geographic names are hydronyms—the names of rivers, lakes, and oceans. These form as a whole the most conservative group with the greatest stability. In addition, there are oronyms—the names of mountains, ranges, peaks, and hills, and econyms—the names of population centers. Such a classification, however, is still not universal. It is unclear, for example, how to relate the geographic names of ravines, gorges, gullies, and other forms of erosion relief to oronyms or hydronyms, and a similar problem applies to the names of swamps and related forms. Another class of geographic names is microtoponyms —that is, the place-names of smaller geographic objects such as forests, natural landmarks, hay mowings, common pastures, fisheries, wood-cutting areas, burned areas, pastures, wells, springs, pools, and rapids. This group of geographic names is diverse in composition and is united by a limited and narrowly local knowledge of such names only among local inhabitants.

In some cases the original meaning of a toponym is easily discovered. In other cases considerable efforts must be made to understand a place-name, and in still others, given the contemporary state of knowledge, the origin of the toponym remains a mystery. Geographic names are basically popular creations. They reflect geographic conditions, history, economics, politics, language, culture, and civilization. Therefore, the study of geographic names is of great interest for linguists, geographers, historians, and ethnologists. A very substantial practical problem is the stabilization of geographic names and the principles of translating them from one language to another. The systematic study of toponyms has developed in many countries in the second half of the 20th century, and toponymies—a branch of knowledge devoted to the study of geographic names—has been established.


Zhuchkevich, V. A. Obshchaia toponimika, 2nd ed. Minsk, 1968.
Murzaev, E. M. “Proiskhozhdenie geograficheskikh nazvanii.” Sovetskaia geografiia: Itogi i zadachi. Moscow, 1960.
Nikonov, V. A. Vvedenie v toponimiku. Moscow, 1965.
Nikonov, V. A. Kratkii toponimicheskii slovar’. Moscow, 1966.
Pospelov, E. M. Toponimika i kartografiia. Moscow, 1971.


References in periodicals archive ?
The choice of names to be included is partially guided by the list of names specified in the ADL Gazetteer (Hill and Zheng 1999), the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (Getty Research Institute 2000), and the Los Angeles Comprehensive Bibliographic Database (Ethington et al.
Although one of the most challenging aspects of the region is the multiple claims on it by the Italians, Austrians and Slavs, reflected in the geographic names, the authors have chosen to repeat their dual naming, reminding the reader that Neustadt is (Novo Mesto) three times in a single paragraph.
But there is no national movement to replace ``devil'' with ``spirit,'' according to one arbiter on such matters, the Interior Department's United States Board on Geographic Names.
The incorporated text retrieval mechanisms of AMORE allowed the Getty Information Institute to integrate structured vocabularies such as the Art & Architecture Thesaurus, the Union List of Artist Names and the Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names into the retrieval database.
CITY is particularly promising given the tremendous worldwide appetite for geographic names.
According to a note on the website regarding the use of names, "The Factbook staff follows the guidance of the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN).
Geographic Names Information Systems Web site lists about two dozen variations of the lake's spelling, but none that corresponds with the chamber of commerce signs, which where replaced in 2003.
Board on Geographic Names was found to have revised its description of the islets to assume a more neutral position, prompting the South Korean Embassy in Washington to lodge a protest.
The United States, through the USGS, has a Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) (USGS 2003b) that, from the perspectives of cartographic usage or practicality of integration into GIS systems, has a number of severe flaws.
Volume 2 follows the same sequence, but in addition contains several lengthy indices that cover both volumes and are divided into separate sections for personal names, geographic names, ethnic names, and technical terms occurring in the translated chapters and in the notes.
Board on Geographic Names has approved a proposal by Jon Waskiewicz, Turner Lane, East Templeton, to name the fourth highest geographic point in Templeton Demadale Ridge.
Locations, identified by country, are taken from the United States Board on Geographic Names.

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