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Geographic Names Information System

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) contains name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features located throughout the United States of America and its Territories. 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 which includes topographic map names and bibliographic references. The names of books and historic maps which confirm the feature or place name are cited. Variant names, alternatives to official federal names for a feature, are also recorded.


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.

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.


  • U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, National Mapping Division, Digital Gazeteer: Users Manual, (Reston, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey, 1994).
  • Heat Moon, William Least, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, (Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1982).
  • Jouris, David, All Over The Map, (Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 1994.).
  • Report: "Countries, Dependencies, Areas Of Special Sovereignty, And Their Principal Administrative Divisions," Federal Information Processing Standards, FIPS 10-4.
  • Report: "Principles, Policies, and Procedures: Domestic Geographic Names," U.S. Board of Geographic Names, 1997.
  • U.S. Postal Service Publication 28, November 2000.

See also

External links

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Categories: United States Geological Survey | Geography of the United States | Public domain databases | Geocodes | Cartography stubs