Toponymy Interest Group


The American Name Society




Because of the great range of information, The Toponymy Interest Group recommends a clear distinction between required types of information and desired types.

The Toponymy Interest Group identifies four types of information as required for placename studies:

  • The Name,
  • Type of Feature,
  • Location,
  • Source of Information.

Furthermore, this information should be expressed in data fields described as follows:

  1. Name -- free form exactly as found in the source.
  2. Type of Feature -- any designation is acceptable, but it is highly desirable to specify the most appropriate category set forth by the federal government in the Geographic Names Information System.
  3. Location -- this is to be expressed in any of several data fields, listed here in order of preference:
    1. geographic coordinates
    2. civil divisions
    3. map reference
    4. county
    5. distance and direction from a well-known, other feature.
  4. Source -- indication of where the information was found using any standard bibliographic citation of the text or map (e.g. the style manual of the American Psychological Association or the Modern Language Association handbook).  If by interview, simply state the date of the interview and the name, age, gender, residence, and employment of the person interviewed.

Additional Information

Three other types of information have been discussed as highly desirable:

  1. The Geographic Names Information System identity number, if known, should be used to distinguish different features with frequently used names -- e.g., Bear Creek.  If any two cultural or geographic features have similar names, their relationships should be noted and the notation repeated in separate entries.
  2. An indication of pronunciation to show linguistic variation is important for the study of dialects.  Roman letters are preferred with the accent indicated by capitalization.
  3. All variant spellings and names for the same feature should be listed.   Special note should be made of the comparative frequencies in local usage of these differing names and name forms.

      Definitions of other types of placename information may be found in a 1993 article from the journal of the American Name Society, Names: A Journal of Onomastics.  (click here to see it.)