Toponymy Interest Group


The American Name Society


Some Selected Annotated Bibliographic Entries

on Geographical Names in Canada

Source: Helen Kerfoot (2000)


    Rayburn (1994) (1997a)



    Aubrey (1996)

    Harrison (1994)

    Karamitsanis (1991) (1992)

Atlantic Provinces 

    Hamilton (1996)


    Seary (1971)

British Columbia 

    Akrigg (1997)


    Ham (1980)


    Lapierre (1981)

    Rayburn (1997b)

    Quebec Commission de toponymie du Québec (1994)


    Barry (1997)

Yukon Territory 

    Coutts (1980)

    Tom (1987)

Aboriginal naming 

    CPCGN (1997a)

    Müller-Wille (1987)

    Tom (1987)


    CPCGN (1997)


    CPCGN (1987)


    CPCGN Canoma

    CSSN Onomastica Canadiana


Natural Resources Canada, Geographical Names 


Akrigg, G.P.V. and Helen B. (1997): British Columbia place names. UBC Press, Vancouver.

(304 pages)

This third edition contains the origins of about 2400 British Columbia toponyms. Arranged alphabetically, the entries provide short background information on the names and a locational reference to a fairly detailed map of the province. Some entries include quotations, and for Aboriginal names word meanings are included. About 20 percent of the provinces names are derived from Aboriginal names or words, and within the Introduction the many Indian languages and dialects of BC are mapped and listed. A general overview indicates the major sources of the "historical stratigraphy" of the province’s names (e.g. Spanish explorers, gold rush miners, etc.). Additionally, the "psychology of nomenclature" is addressed under the following categories: descriptive, metaphorical, possessive, nostalgia, episodic, memorial and honorific. The authors also mention the impact of some government decision-making on official vs. local names.


Aubrey, Merrily K. - see - Place names of Alberta series


Barry, Bill (1997): People places. Saskatchewan and its names. Canadian Plains Research Center, Regina.

(202 pages)

This thematic approach to the toponymy of Saskatchewan draws on the author’s People Places computer data base containing over 25,000 entries of Indian reserves, cities, towns and villages. The province’s names are treated under the following subject headings: First Nations (divided by Treaty area); railways; people and places of the world; Canadians all (fur-trading, politicians, governors general, colonizers, surveyors, etc.); games people play (acronyms, reversals, abbreviations, puns, commemorative names); lest we forget (commemorations of the First and Second World Wars; the bizarre; and the beautiful. Details of the structure of First Nations in Saskatchewan, a Cree pronunciation guide, illustrations and a locational map are also included.

(This material was re-issued in 1998, in a different format as The Dictionary of Saskatchewan Place Names.)


Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (1987): Glossary of generic terms in Canada’s geographical names / Glossaire des génériques en usage dans les noms géographiques du Canada. Terminology Bulletin 176. Secretary of State and Energy, Mines and Resources Canada, Ottawa.

(311 pages)

A joint publication of the Canadian federal government Translation Bureau and the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, the glossary contains descriptions of generic terms used in official names of topographic features in Canada. This glossary also facilitates exchange of information between English and French language groups by providing an authoritative source of equivalent terms between the two languages. Local and regional cultural differences are shown by terms such as pingo, snye and buffalo jump, and varying usage of terms such as basin or creek are explained. Text on over 640 generics are included; accompanied by 66 illustrations. (Updates to the content of this publication have been maintained by the CPCGN Secretariat.)


Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (1997a): Aboriginal geographical names of Canada: an annotated bibliography / La toponymie autochtone du Canada : une bibliographie annotée. Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa.

(200 pages)

Third edition of the first (and probably still the only) comprehensive annotated bibliography of the Aboriginal toponymy of Canada. This volume contains information on 144 Canadian titles and, for comparison purposes, 293 non-Canadian ones. Books and periodicals (some 200) covering a wide range of years were consulted as systematically as possible; but for practicality only a few newspaper articles and maps were included. Entries are listed alphabetically by author, with annotations in either English or French depending on the language of the original text. Indexes by geographical location and Aboriginal group/language are useful additions.


Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (1997b): Concise Gazetteer of Canada / Répertoire toponymique concis du Canada. Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa.

(636 pages)

Although various provincial and territorial gazetteers have been published before, this is the first coverage of Canada in one volume. The purpose of the concise gazetteer is to provide the official spelling and locational information for all names of incorporated and unincorporated places, national parks, national historical sites, and Indian Reserves, as well as a selection of urban communities, landscape features, and undersea features. Names formerly official within the past 10 years are cross-referenced within the 47,000 names selected for inclusion. Entries are listed alphabetically with the type of entity, province/territory and next level of administrative unit, National Topographic System 1:50,000 sheet (1:250,000 for the Northwest Territories), and latitude and longitude. A 1:20M map of Canada is provided.


Canoma. Newsletter of the Geographical Names Board of Canada, 1975 to present. Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa.

Since Canoma was started in 1975, two issues have been produced each year. English and French material included. Contents relate to various aspects of geographical naming in Canada, and over the past two and a half decades issues have included items on the administration of geographical names, including the work of the Geographical Names Board of Canada and its advisory committees; municipal name changes; current research projects in Canadian toponymy; reports of symposiums and United Nations conferences; and numerous articles on historical aspects of Canada’s toponymy. Indexes have been produced on a regular basis and list items by title and by author, and where applicable by province or territory, an individual, a committee, or a particular field of toponymy.


Commission de toponymie du Québec (1994): Noms et lieux du Québec : dictionnaire illustré. Publications du Québec, Sainte-Foy, QC.

(925 pages)

An in-depth look at the toponymy of Quebec is presented in this prestige publication, illustrated throughout with colour photos (500) and maps. Based on many years research and previous publications of the Commission de toponymie du Québec, this dictionary provides some 6000 name entries that collectively identify the rich toponymy and character of Quebec. Historical, geographical, folkloric and linguistic materials are woven into the French-language texts. Each entry contains basic locational information and many provide reference to earlier names and current variants – giving access to 20 000 toponyms. Also included are chapters on the evolution of toponymy in Quebec, categories of toponyms and types of geographical features named. The layout of entries is carefully documented and terminology explained. An extensive index, bibliography and 29 page-sized reference maps of the province are provided.


Coutts, R.C. (1980): Yukon: places and names. Gray’s Publishing Limited, Sidney, B.C.

(294 pages)

This alphabetical arrangement of over 1200 selected Yukon names provides the origins and meanings of the names, often with thumbnail sketches of the history and biographical notes on people commemorated. Locational information in each entry includes latitude and longitude and references each name to the appropriate 1:250,000-scale map. Only limited material is included in reference to Aboriginal naming. The introduction provides some indication of historic events which form the backdrop for geographical naming in the Yukon. The general location map of the territory includes an overlay of the topographic map index.


Ham, Penny (1980): Place names of Manitoba. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon.

(153 pages)

Local histories, interviews, geographical and historical documents have produced stories and legends not previously recorded. Almost 1800 names of places and features in Manitoba are arranged alphabetically. Entries include the section, township and range (locational reference of the Prairie survey system) in the locational data. The origin and meanings of toponyms are explained in relation to the local history. A location map of Manitoba places is included, as well as a list of correspondence and interviews, and a bibliography.


Hamilton, William B. (1996): Place names of Atlantic Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

(502 pages)

Size, history and human interest are the broad categories of criteria used in the selection of over 2000 entries arranged alphabetically by province (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland). Name entries, for both physical features and populated places include locational and historical data. "Windows on history and culture" provides a chapter discussing the light shed by toponyms on the cultural evolution of Atlantic Canada from 1000 to present. "Bibliographical essay" presents details on the variety of source material used for this book. For each province a locational map is included.


Harrison, Tracey - see - Place names of Alberta series


Karamitsanis, Aphrodite - see - Place names of Alberta series


Lapierre, André (1981): Toponymie française en Ontario. Éditions Études Vivantes, Montréal.

(120 pages)

Prepared primarily for French students in Ontario, this collection of toponyms illustrates the significance of naming in the French heritage of Ontario. 174 names, recalling French settlement in Ontario from the Ancien Régime to the present, are presented in dictionary format. Each entry has historical origin information and a locational map. The "Guide pédagogique" has a series of questions and exercises addressing the study of toponymy, the analysis of categories of toponyms, and toponymy in the local milieu. The introduction gives an overview of French toponymy in Ontario, the role of the Ontario Geographic Names Board and the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, a lexicon of terms, and a list of phonetic symbols. In addition, the toponyms in the book are indexed by geographic entity and seven outline maps source the names as derived either from the "Régime français" or from "Après la Conquête".


Müller-Wille, Ludger (1987): Gazetteer of Inuit place names in Nunavik (Quebec, Canada). Avataq Cultural Institute, Inukjuak, Quebec.

(368 pages)

This trilingual (English/French/Inuktitut syllabics) publication results from the NUNA-TOP Project which systematically recorded place names used by the Inuit communities in Northern Quebec. Names, many only known in oral tradition, have now been gathered and compiled into this first Inuit gazetteer. Inuktitut names are shown in both Roman orthography and syllabics, with the geographic entity, latitude and longitude, 1:50 000 National Topographic Series (NTS) map. They are listed in two ways: alphabetically by name; and by 15 regions, each subdivided alphabetically by map sheet number. Other chapters discuss the relationship of names and the land, explain the field work methodology and the development of the project, and provide a map and earlier names for the 17 communities included in Nunavik. An NTS index and various photos are included.


Natural Resources Canada, Geographical Names Website, 

This bilingual (English/French) website provides access to query the records of the Canadian Geographical Names Data Base, either searching by official/formerly official name, or by point coordinates. The site also includes information on recent name changes, toponymic assistance to translators, the role of the Geographical Names Board of Canada, useful publications, and current toponymic research projects in Canada. A section on name origin information, in conjunction with SchoolNet, covers a variety of topics, for example: all provinces/territories and their capitals; other Canadian cities; national parks; interesting and curious generic terms; toponymy in literature, in Canadiana, and in war; as well as material developed by university students on Northern Ontario, Newfoundland and Indigenous place names of Northern Alberta. Quizzes and teachers’ guides are included, as too are materials relating to geographical names standardization and the United Nations, and links to other toponymic sites. Links are provided to other toponymic websites – Canadian, international and United Nations.


Onomastica Canadiana. Journal of the Canadian Society for the Study of Names, 1951 to present.

Onomastica Canadiana has been published each year since 1951, essentially two volumes annually (title was Onomastica from 1951-1983). Articles are in English or French, although early issues included works in Ukrainian. Articles are refereed and pertinent to all aspects of onomastics, though largely with Canadian content; book reviews are also included. Volume 80, No. 2 (December 1998) was an index volume of all previous issues.

Place names of Alberta series. University of Calgary Press, Calgary.

Karamitsanis, Aphrodite (1991): Place names of Alberta. Vol. I. Mountains, mountain peaks, and foothills.

(292 pages)

Karamitsanis, Aphrodite (1992): Place names of Alberta. Vol. II. Southern Alberta.

(152 pages)

Harrison, Tracey (1994): Place names of Alberta. Vol. III. Central Alberta.

(288 pages)

Aubrey, Merrily K. (1996): Place names of Alberta. Vol. IV. Northern Alberta.

(260 pages)

The Geographical Names Program of the Government of Alberta has produced a four-volume series on the history of place names in Alberta. Three consecutive coordinators of the program have been the volume editors. The four books divide the province geographically and present dictionary-style entries on the history behind the names of places and features. Black and white historical photos augment the text and recent colored landscape views form an appendix to each volume. A bibliography, a glossary and a map of the area covered are included in each volume. The introductions give an overview of the area’s history and toponymy Aboriginal names are covered at greater length in Vol. IV), which also contains an appendix about life on a survey crew, in words and photos.

Rayburn, Alan (1994): Naming Canada: stories about place names from "Canadian Geographic". University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

(271 pages)

Sixty-one columns on "Place Names" as originally published in the Canadian Geographic magazine between December 1983 and 1993 have been reprinted. The stories about Canada’s place names are grouped into eight general themes. The articles cover a broad spectrum of toponymy in Canada: names based on political issues and language problems, names brought from overseas, generic terminology, names of Aboriginal origin, commemorative names, names of selected places and regions, and names of Canada’s extremities.


Rayburn, Alan (1997a): Dictionary of Canadian place names. Oxford University Press, Toronto.

(461 pages)

Historical origins of some 6225 of Canada’s geographical names are provided in an alphabetical country-wide listing. This total comprises a 462-page book, providing information on about 1.5 percent of Canada’s official names. Precedence is given to incorporated cities, towns, and villages, other urban centers and unincorporated places (with population over 150), well-known urban neighborhoods, and municipalities. Physical features have been selected, based on size and interest factors. Entries include former names and postal designations, dates of incorporation, and general locational data. Toponymic sources and administrative terminology for each province and territories form a useful addition.


Rayburn, Alan (1997b): Place names of Ontario. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

(404 pages)

Major physical features and populated places with a population of 75 constitute most of the 2285 geographical names selected for this dictionary. each alphabetical entry provides locational data, who named it and for what or whom, when it was named and other information pertinent to the place name. In the introduction, 25 categories of names are noted, with one-third being derived from places (397) or people (339) of the British Isles. The next categories are prominent Canadians (312), first settlers, postmasters and developers (297), names derived from nearby places - associated names (183) and Aboriginal names and legends (174). Administrative terminology of Ontario is explained and municipal restructuring noted.

Seary, E.R. (1971): Place names of the Avalon Peninsula of the Island of Newfoundland. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

(383 pages)

This toponymic study is part of a project on the speech, dialect, vocabulary, place names and folklore of Newfoundland. The author discusses early general studies of toponymy; Canadian essays in toponymic methodology; and the principal early journals and surveys of the Avalon Peninsula. He explains generic terminology and classifications of toponyms by specific, according to George Stewart, and analyzes those of the Avalon Peninsula. Six chapters detail research into Indian, Portuguese, French, English and Irish place names of the area. A gazetteer lists individual and clusters of names and provides historical citations of these names on documents (primarily maps). Explanations of the name are provided in some cases. An index is included, as well as a detailed bibliography of maps, charts and atlases, manuscripts and printed sources.


Tom, Gertie (1987): Èkeyi: Gyò Cho Chú. My country: Big Salmon River. Yukon Native Language Centre, Whitehorse, Yukon.

(84 pages)

Gertie Tom is a local speaker of Northern Tutchone and wrote these stories of language and landscape following the development of a practical writing system for the language. 74 names of geographical features of the Big Salmon River area in the Yukon Territory are provided in Northern Tutchone (one of six Athapaskan languages of the Yukon); the meaning of the words are given in English, along with the location of the feature, a detailed map, and official name (if applicable). Mrs. Tom tells eight stories of her childhood family travel in the valley of the Gyò Cho Chú. Colored illustrations of the landscape and a Northern Tutchone language chart are included.


Revised: January 19, 2002 .