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Geographic Names Server

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Current GNS Count:   Features and   Names
GNS is current to GENC Standard Ed   Update  

GNS Schema Information

All data accessible from the GNS site uses a standardized GNS data schema, whether it is downloaded from the application, accessed through a service, or via the prepositioned country files. (The only exception is when users choose to query and download data from the search application and optionally export it into the NAS-compliant schema format.) For details on this schema, review the GNS Data Dictionary.

In the Geographic Names Search application, users can choose to export data into the NAS-compliant schema, instead of using the standard GNS schema. The NAS is the National System for Geospatial Intelligence (NSG) Application Schema. For more information on how the NAS relates to the standard GNS format, see the GNS to NAS crosswalk. See the NSG Standards Registry for more information on the NAS data model.

The schema for publicly shareable Geographic Names data that could be obtained from the previous version of the GeoNet Names Server (GNS) varied, depending on how you obtained it (query and download from the text-based application, download prepositioned country files, data services, etc.). As noted above, in the current solution, the shareable schema has been updated and standardized. As a result, there are at least some schema changes relative to the legacy schema for all modes of data access. In addition, the GNS previously used GEC (formerly FIPS 10-4) data codes for geopolitical entities and subdivisions, while the current schema now uses codes from the GENC standard. For a comparison of the legacy schemas to the current standardized schema, see the GNS Schema legacy mapping info.

GNS Code Reference Tables

The GNS Code Reference Tables provide an ordered list of codes used in the GNS for various data attribution fields. Users can download complete tables for the following codes.

ADM1 Codes Download CSV Icon
Country Codes Download CSV Icon
Designation Codes Download CSV Icon
Language Codes Download CSV Icon
Name Type Codes Download CSV Icon
Transliteration System Codes Download CSV Icon
Font RK Codes Download CSV Icon
Script Codes Download CSV Icon
Feature Classification FC Codes Download CSV Icon
Display Codes Download CSV Icon
Dialect Codes Download CSV Icon
Country Codes

Codes for geopolitical entities used in the GNS are based on the Geopolitical Entities, Names, and Codes (GENC) Standard, the U.S. Government profile of ISO 3166 "Codes for the representation of names of countries and their subdivisions." GENC provides a list of the basic geopolitical entities in the world, together with the administrative subdivisions that comprise each entity. It specifies an authoritative set of country codes and names for use by the Federal Government for information exchange, using ISO 3166 (Parts 1 and 2) names and code elements wherever possible, with modifications only where necessary to comply with U.S. law and U.S. Government recognition policy. The names of the geopolitical entities are derived from official meeting records of the Foreign Names Committee of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN). Further information and the GENC content may be found in the GENC Registry online.

GENC Registry Webpage Link Icon   GNS is current to GENC Standard Ed   Update  

Prior to implementing GENC codes, the GNS used geopolitical codes known as Geopolitical Entities and Codes (GEC) (formerly FIPS PUB 10-4). A crosswalk workbook of GENC and the former GEC codes is available below.

Country Policies
Geographic Names Standardization Policies By Country

In partnership with the United States Board on Geographic Names, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency promulgates policies on geographic names standardization for all of the countries, dependencies, and areas of special sovereignty of the world. These policies describe the methods used to arrive at standard spellings of geographic names from the country or dependency in question. Congressional statute mandates the standard spellings for use by all U.S. Government employees. Select a country from the menu below to view the standardization policy for that country.

Romanization Systems
Romanization Systems

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use (PCGN) jointly develop and/or approve romanization systems and Roman-script spelling conventions for the purpose of establishing standardized Roman-script spellings of those foreign geographical names that are written in non-Roman scripts or in Roman alphabets that contain special letters.

Each romanization system presented below is identified as being a BGN/PCGN system, a BGN/PCGN agreement, or a Table of Correspondences with the date of its joint adoption by the BGN and PCGN indicated in most cases. The tables present the currently approved systems, superseding the publication Romanization Systems and Roman Script Spelling Conventions of 2008. The Introduction from the 2008 publication is available at the link below.

Information on other transliteration systems for geographic names is maintained on the website of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names Working Group on Romanization Systems (WGRS) .

Foreign Names Committee (FNC)
Foreign Names Committee (FNC)

The GNS database is the official repository of foreign place-name decisions approved by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. In addition to the Country Policies and Romanization Systems posted elsewhere on this site, the following policies and other documents of interest approved by or related to the Foreign Names Committee are available for reference and use.

FNC Meeting Minutes

The Foreign Names Committee (FNC) meets regularly to develop and refine standards regarding place name spellings for features outside the U.S. and areas under its sovereignty.

FNC Meeting Agenda Link Icon
The U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN)

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names is a Federal body created in 1890 and established in its present form by Public Law 80-242 in 1947 to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government. Sharing its responsibilities with the Secretary of the Interior, the Board promulgates official geographic feature names with locative attributes as well as principles, policies, and procedures governing the use of domestic names, foreign names, Antarctic names, and undersea feature names. The work of the Board is funded out of the normal operating expenses of the agencies involved, and members of the BGN and its committees receive no additional remuneration for their service.

The work of the BGN is carried primarily out by two of its standing committees: the Domestic Names Committee (DNC) and the Foreign Names Committee (FNC). The standardization of geographic names within the United States and areas under its sovereignty is the responsibility of the DNC. Every year, the DNC reviews hundreds of new domestic name proposals and suggested name changes from private citizens and local, state, federal, and tribal authorities. The DNC never initiates a new name proposal; rather, it mediates place name controversies and rules on new name proposals using its principles, policies and procedures. Members of the DNC come from the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Defense, Homeland Security, the Government Publishing Office, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Postal Service. Staff support for the DNC comes from the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Foreign Names Committee (FNC) is concerned with the development of standard place name spellings for features outside the U.S. and areas under its sovereignty. The FNC relies heavily on native mapping, census reports, official bulletins, and other foreign material to collect and standardize foreign geographic names for use by U.S. Government agencies. In cooperation with its U.K. counterpart, the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names, the FNC has developed systems for the conversion of non-Roman writing systems (e.g., Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic) to Roman script in order to convert non-Roman-script geographic names to Roman-script forms in a consistent manner. Members of the FNC come from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Departments of Defense, Commerce, State, and the Library of Congress. Staff support for the FNC is provided by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

In addition to the DNC and the FNC, the BGN has two advisory committees: the Advisory Committee on Antarctic Names and the Advisory Committee on Undersea Features. The committees are composed of scientific experts in their respective fields who work to ensure the standardization of geographic nomenclature in mapping, charting, and technical publications dealing with these fields. Staff support for the two advisory committees is provided by the U.S Geological Survey and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, respectively.

Further information about the Board and its activities may be obtained from its website or by contacting:

BGN Webpage Link Icon
BGN Executive Secretary
Domestic Names Committee
BGN Executive Secretary
Foreign Names Committee
U.S. Board on Geographic Names (BGN) Advisory Committee on Undersea Features (ACUF)

The BGN Advisory Committee on Undersea Features (ACUF) was established in its present form in 1963 to recommend standardization policy for names of undersea features and to recommend official standard names based on proposals submitted by authorities in the field or usage on hydrographic and bathymetric charts.

ACUF members come from various federal agencies and are experts in the fields of bathymetry and/or geomorphology. The members are appointed by the Secretary of the Interior on the recommendation of the BGN. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) provides the secretariat for the committee.

There are over 5,800 undersea features currently available via the Geographic Names Server (GNS). There is a total of over 10,900 names including variant (cross-reference) names. The BGN approves undersea feature names based on the recommendation of ACUF. ACUF is charged with recommending BGN policy for totally-submerged undersea features which lie outside the territorial sea (as recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) of all coastal states. Undersea features within the territorial sea of the United States are handled by the BGN Domestic Names Committee (DNC) in coordination with ACUF.

Further information about the ACUF and its activities may be obtained from:

ACUF Secretary
Information for submitting name proposals

ACUF welcomes proposals for new undersea feature names. You may use the ACUF Proposal Online Form (below) to submit a new proposal. For questions on policy conformance and the list of acceptable generic terms, please consult the Policies and Guidelines for the Standardization of Undersea Feature Names (July 2005).