Excerpts from U.S. Board of Geographic Names guidelines.

Any person or organization, public or private, may submit a name proposal to the Board for consideration.

These guideline apply only to features that have never been named. Names for features already established in spoken or written form by local citizens, even though the names do not appear on current maps, are given priority.

  • Sec.1 Recommended Kind of New Names The Board prefers imaginative names that are relatively unique or distinctive provided they are not incompatible with the forms of other names existing in the areas in which they will be used. Names descriptive of topographic form or suggested by local history, folklore, or incident, or by associated natural life or other phenomena are preferred.
  • Sec.2 Duplication of Names A proposed name should not duplicate another name in the State or nearby in an adjoining State.
  • Sec.3 Recommend Name Form Proposed new names are expected to perform useful service as proper names. They normally should be as short as possible and easily pronounced. Complex and difficult-to-pronounce names are often not accepted by users.
  • Sec.4 Qualifying Words in Names Use of qualifying or relational words (middle, upper, north, big, etc.), in the naming of features like lakes, mountains, should be avoided unless the name being proposed is associated with such a relational name already in use. Whenever possible, new names should be distinctive.
  • Sec.5 Generic Terms When a proposed geographic name includes both a spcific and generic element, the generic term (creek, cerro, ridge, lake, etc.) must be appropriate to the feature and should normally conform to generic words already used and understood...
  • Sec.6 Personal Names A personal name proposed for a geographic feature will not be adopted unless it is determined to be in public interest...
  • [One item not mentioned, but I've seen elsewhere, is that possesives are discouranged, and even if accepted, will not have an apostrophe, i.e. "Beehives Indicator" or "Crystal Springs Geyser" is how they would be listed. -- HK]
  • Procedure: A formal proposal must be submitted to the Board in writing along with the following information:

    • 1. Full form of geographic name being proposed
    • 2. Location and clear identification of the feature to be named
    • 3. Reason for wishing to name the feature [although the form doesn't have a specific box for this]
    • 4. Origin or meaning of the proposed name
    • 5. Basis of knowledge that feature is unnamed [Lee's Wonderland Nomenclature is a good place to start]
    A marked map showing the exact delineation of the feature to be named is helpful. Board review of a proposal will be expedited if the proposer furnishes some evidence of local support for a new name. Such evidence may be in the form of: (1) letters from appropriate local administrative authorities [i.e. Park Resource Council] (2) petitions for the name signed by local residents, and (3) newspaper clippings of articles and etters-to-the-editor showing public awareness and endorsement of the propsed name. Without evidence of support, final action on a proposal may take three to six months, because the Board works closely with State boards ... and interested Federal agencies and local citizens before deciding on a name. Inquiries may be directed to:

    Executive Secretary
    Domestic Geographic Names
    USBGN, National Center Stop 523
    Reston, Va. 22092