Geographic Names Information System

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The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database that contains name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States of America and its territories. It is a type of gazetteer. GNIS was developed by the United States Geological Survey in cooperation with the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to promote the standardization of feature names.

The database is part of a system that includes topographic map names and bibliographic references. The names of books and historic maps that confirm the feature or place name are cited. Variant names, alternatives to official federal names for a feature, are also recorded. The database never removes an entry, "except in cases of obvious duplication".[1]

Changing names

The GNIS accepts proposals for new or changed names for U.S. geographical features. Members of the public can make proposals at this Web page. Justification and a list of supporters are required. Meeting minutes include discussions of specific proposals and changes.

Other authorities

  • The Bureau of the Census defines Census Designated Places which are a subset of locations in the National Geographic Names Database.
  • U.S. Postal Service Publication 28 gives standards for addressing mail. In this publication, the postal service defines two-letter state abbreviations, street identifiers such as boulevard (BLVD) and street (ST), and secondary identifiers such as suite (STE).
  • The names of post offices have historically been used to back up claims about the name of a community.


  1. Cartographic Users Advisory Council (CUAC) (April 26-27, 2007). "2007 Agency Presentation Minutes". Reston, VA: US Geological Survey. 

See also

External links