Geographic Names Information System

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is a database of name and locative information about more than two million physical and cultural features throughout the United States and its territories, Antarctica, and the associated states of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. It is a type of gazetteer. It was developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) to promote the standardization of feature names.

The logo of the United States Geological Survey (USGS)

Data were collected in two phases.[1] Although a third phase was considered, which would have handled name changes where local usages differed from maps, it was never begun.[2]

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. Each feature receives a permanent, unique feature record identifier, sometimes called the GNIS identifier.[3] The database never removes an entry, "except in cases of obvious duplication."[4]


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