National Geospatial Program

Board on Geographic Names

The Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) is the Federal and national standard for geographic nomenclature. The U.S. Geological Survey developed the GNIS in support of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names as the official repository of domestic geographic names data, the official vehicle for geographic names use by all departments of the Federal Government, and the source for applying geographic names to Federal electronic and printed products.

The GNIS contains information about physical and cultural geographic features of all types in the United States, associated areas, and Antarctica, current and historical, but not including roads and highways. The database holds the Federally recognized name of each feature and defines the feature location by state, county, USGS topographic map, and geographic coordinates. Other attributes include names or spellings other than the official name, feature designations, feature classification, historical and descriptive information, and for some categories the geometric boundaries.

The database assigns a unique, permanent feature identifier, the Feature ID, as the only standard Federal key for accessing, integrating, or reconciling feature data from multiple data sets. The GNIS collects data from a broad program of partnerships with Federal, State, and local government agencies and other authorized contributors, and provides data to all levels of government, to the public, and to numerous applications through a web query site, web map and feature services, and file download services.

The GNIS Feature ID, Official Feature Name, and Official Feature Location are American National Standards Institute standards as specified in ANSI INCITS 446-2008 (Identifying Attributes for Named Physical and Cultural Geographic Features (Except Roads and Highways) of the United States, Its Territories, Outlying Areas, and Freely Associated Areas, and the Waters of the Same to the Limit of the Twelve-Mile Statutory Zone). The standard is available at the ANSI Web Store.

***Note: An updated version of the Principles, Policies and Procedures is now available. The Domestic Names Committee will be using the new version to evaluate all pending proposals.

New Policy Regarding the Maintenance of Administrative Feature Names in The National Map

Effective October 1, 2014:
As a result of reprioritized budgets and resources, the decision has been made to suspend the maintenance of some administrative (i.e. cultural or manmade) feature names in The National Map and to discontinue the maintenance of all administrative names through the GNIS public interface at this site ( The features that will continue to be maintained in The National Map will be updated in GNIS on a periodic revision cycle through submissions from authoritative sources or based on input from volunteers through The National Map Corps.

If you are interested in participating in The National Map Corps, which “encourages citizens to collect structures data by adding new features, removing obsolete points, and correcting existing data for The National Map,” please visit the following Web site: To identify the administrative features to be maintained through The National Map Corps program, click "Structures List" located on the left-hand side of the page.