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Geographical names


Names of areas, regions, localities, cities, suburbs, towns or settlements, or any geographical or topographical feature of public or historical interest.


Geographical names or place names describe features on Earth – a location or a landscape object, on land as well as on sea. Often the term topographical name is used to emphasize the spatial dependency and relation to the adjacent topographical features.

The geographical names on a specific landscape object can be different in the different languages. Multi-lingual aspects should be covered in the data sets. In some datasets their primary purpose is to depict geographical locations and in others they may be attributes, and of secondary importance. Geographical names should in both cases be provided in the official form(s) and language(s) of the country, including the minority language(s). (UNGEGN)

Scope, use examples:

DT DS emphasises that the examples in D2.3 should not be interpreted as recommendations or proposals for the upcoming specification, and refers the issue for proper analysis to the TWG.

Geographical name datasets are commonly produced by mapping agencies and local authorities.
Geographical names data with pan-European coverage exist e.g. in GISCO. (INSPIRE IMS, 2003)

The geographical names database should be suited to generalise to versions/scales. It should provide links between an endonym (name form used in the language spoken at the location of the geographical feature) and its exonyms (names forms used in various foreign languages).

The geographical names database can be used for:

  • Search and overview;
  • Location at all layers;
  • As a basic layer on maps;
  • Eeffective operations at local level (e.g. transport and emergency operations);
  • Documenting geographical names forms in minority languages.
    (INSPIRE IMS, 2003), (UNGEGN, 2002)

A Gazetteer is a geographical directory. According to the definition in ISO 19112 a gazetteer provides a master record of all location instances for a particular location type or types. Gazetteers are not just geographical names’ indexes but may be records of any kind of feature type or types. The positional information may include a coordinate reference, but it may be purely descriptive. (INSPIRE ETC, 2002)

Important feature types and attributes:

Geographical Name Language Status (official, exonym, endonym,etc.) Importance (e.g. indicated by map scale) Classification (feature type) Spatial reference; direct by means of coordinates and/or indirect by link to a spatial dataset.

Links and overlaps with other themes:

Addresses, because the geographical name is a substantial element of the address.
Geographical Names serve as an indirect spatial reference system. As such their importance is similar to Coordinate Reference systems. Geographical Names are attributes to many feature types that appear in other themes of the Directive, for instance Administrative units, Hydrography and Elevation.

Reference documents:

(UNGEGN, 2007) Resolutions adopted at the nine United Nations Conferences on the Standardization of Geographical Names 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1998, 2002, 2007. URL:

International Standard ISO 19112, Geographic information – Spatial referencing by geographic identifiers

IHO S-23 Limits of Oceans and Seas. URL:

Australia and New Zealand Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping Harmonised Data Model Place Names application schema

Several SDICs and LMOs from EU Member States or Regions have submitted data specifications for datasets that include geographical names. See categorised list of reference material, compiled by JRC, March 2007.



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