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The GEOnet Names Server (GNS) provides access to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency's (NGA) and the U.S. Board on Geographic Names' (US BGN) database of foreign geographic feature names. The database is the official repository of foreign place-name decisions approved by the US BGN.  Approximately 20,000 of the database's features are updated monthly.


Step By Step

  1. Select a method for display of diacritical marks in place-name spellings.

  2. Select the maximum number of query responses desired.

  3. Enter the Name to be checked. The following hints are important:
      - This field is not case-sensitive.
      - Do not enter diacritical marks.
      - Generic terms are reversed in the Geographic Names Data Base. To query successfully for a stream named "Rio Grande" enter "Grande, Rio ".


  4. Selecting a Country is highly recommended (or countries, using the Ctrl key on your keyboard) - this speeds up query response.ff

  5. Indicate if International Features should be retrieved.

  6. The FIPS 10 First-Order Administrative Division (ADM1 Code) may be specified.

  7. Identify the Name Types to be returned in the response. The default is for all Names to be returned. For only the US BGN-approved names, de-select "Variant" and "Not Verified".
  8. Identify the Sort Order to be used in the query response:
      - Select "Feature" to obtain a query response ordered by ascending unique feature indentifier (UFI).
      - Select "Name" to obtain a query response ordered by name spelling in ascending alphabetical order.
      - Select "Coordinate" to obtain a response ordered by ascending latitude.
      - Select "Feature Designation" to obtain a response ordered by feature types.


  9. The Unique Feature ID may be specified if it is known.

  10. The Modified On or After date may be specified to help shorten searches.

  11. The Unique Source ID may be specified, if it is known.

  12. The Joint Operation Graphic(JOG) may be specified if it is known.

  13. Specific Feature Designations may be indicated for the search criteria.

  14. A Minimum Bounding Rectangle(MBR) may be specified. MBR's should be entered without any other query criteria.

  15. Click on the Search button to retrieve the specified information.

  16. The query form may be cleared by clicking the Reset button at the bottom of the page.
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Click here for BGN guidance on the use of quotation marks.

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Browser Display Problems

If you are having trouble viewing some or all of the characters in your Geographic Names Database (GNDB) search results, the most likely explanation is that your web browser is not configured to be Unicode Compliant. To make your browser Unicode compliant, follow the directions located at http://www.unicode.org/help/display_problems.html.


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GNS Search

Clicking on the GNS Search link displays the GNS Search web page providing several optional sections for the selection of types of data to be included in the output. Default search criteria are already specified by some already-checked radio buttons and check boxes. These may be altered and unchecked. The simplest search to specify is to supply a Name in the Name field then click on the Search Database button. It may include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. The user may first select the type of diacritic output desired. Click on the radio button next to the type of diacritics: Pushed Fonts, UNICODE, or No Diacritics. Pushed Fonts receives the font from the web server and downloads them to the client browser. If you have a local UNICODE font available on the browser, set the browser encoding type to UTF-8. Select Edit from the Netscape menu, then Preferences. Select Appearance, Fonts and set the encoding to UNICODE. Note that all characters may not be available for any given UNICODE font. These entries will appear as boxes. The number of lines displayed per page may be specified from 50 to 1000. The default is set at 50 lines per page.

The next section contains general search criteria information. A feature name may be entered with or without a wildcard (%) to indicate a search on a portion of the name. The drop-down list box provides a means to specify the context of the feature name within the search. It is strongly recommended that a Country be selected from the scrollable list. This helps immensely with the database search speed. To include parts of a feature that extend into another country, check the International Feature Retrieval check box. A FIPS ADM1 code may be entered to limit the results to just those records with a matching ADM1 code value. Click on the check boxes next to the name types to constrain the results to just those name types. If no boxes are checked, all name types are returned. Select how the result will be sorted, with Feature being the default already selected. A single Unique Feature ID can be entered to constrain the query to return a single feature's records. If the feature has been modified, and the date is known, it can be provided here as a search criteria. A Map Scale Range or multiple Map Scale Ranges can be selected to further constrain the query results to that scale(s).

The next section provides the ability to limit the query results to certain combinations of specified feature classes or designation codes. Click on any combination of check boxes located above the list boxes to easily select all the items in the list box. Otherwise, click on one or more of the specific items in any of the list boxes that will satisfy the search criteria.

The next section provides the ability to query by defining a minimum bounding rectangle. Coordinates are input in Degrees-Minutes-Seconds-Direction for the NE and SW corners. All criteria entered for these sections will be applied against the database to constrain the query in order to retrieve the correct data.

The Geonames Search Results web page is an example of GNS output displayed in an HTML preview. It contains several links. GRC links to the feature's Geospatial Reference Coordinate listing. This will only appear if the given feature has Geospatial Reference Coordinates in the database. The Region Code, Designation Code, and Area also provide link to a help page that provides an explanation of the particular value of that field. Help links are also provided for Language Code and Country Code, if that data is displayed in the GNS output.

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How to Use Fuzzy Matching

Fuzzy matching allows you to search for place names, even if you don't know exactly how they are spelled. It is similar to a GNS 'Starts With', 'Contains', or 'Ends With' query, and similar to a GNS query which uses wild cards, but fuzzy matching is more sophisticated and more powerful, because it is tuned to name matching, not simply to general string matching. Fuzzy matching currently only works for Arabic names, but additional languages are expected in the near future.

To perform a fuzzy match, follow these steps:

  1. Under General Information, select 'Fuzzy Search' as the search type from the drop down box on the right.
  2. On the GNS Ad Hoc Query page, under General Information , select one of the following countries: Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, or Yemen. (These are the countries whose names are transliterated using the BGN/PCGN 1956 Arabic Transliteration System.)
  3. Under Fuzzy Search Criteria, select 'Show Vowels' or 'Hide Vowels', depending on whether you want to see Arabic vowel points on the results from your query. Vowel points are useful in pinning down the exact pronunciation of an Arabic name.
  4. Under 'Minimum Match Quality', select a level from 1 to 9 depending on how strict you want to fizzy matching to be. Level 1 is least strict (i.e. more names will match your query string, and the matches can be farther from your query string). Level 9 is most strict (i.e. few names will match your query string, and the matches are constrained to be closer to your query string).
  5. Select other search parameters as normal from the rest of the boxes on the search page.
  6. When ready to perform your search, press one of the 'Search Database' buttons.

Since fuzzy matching is experimental technology, it may not always work as expected. If you have feedback on fuzzy matching, please provide it to our system team at: geonames@nga.mil.

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GIS Output

Function: The purpose of this page is to describe how to generate GIS Output to a tab-delimited file, HTML Preview, or an Excel spreadsheet. Two output formats are available from the Main Menu. One is reading order(for map applications), while the other is reversed generics(for alphabetical gazetteers and place-name lists). The simplest search to specify is to supply a Name in the Name field then click on the Search Database button. It may include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. The user must first select the type of diacritic output desired. Click on the radio button next to the type of diacritics: Pushed Fonts, UNICODE, or No Diacritics. Pushed Fonts receives the font from the web server and downloads them to the client browser. If you have a local UNICODE font available on the browser, set the browser encoding type to UTF-8. Select Edit from the Netscape menu, then Preferences. Select Appearance,Fonts and set the encoding to UNICODE. Note that all characters may not be available for any given UNICODE font. These entries will appear as boxes. The first section contains general information. A feature name may be entered with or without a wildcard (%) to indicate a search on a portion of the name. The drop-down list box provides a means to specify the context of the feature name within the search. It is strongly recommended that a Country be selected from the scrollable list. This helps immensely with the database search speed. A FIPS ADM1 code may be entered to limit the return to just those records with a matching ADM1 code value. Click on the check boxes next to the name types to constrain the results to just those name types. If no boxes are checked, all name types are returned. To search for Geospatial Reference Coordinates(GRCs) based on Name, select Default to use the Full Name found for the GRC. Or, to search by Name Type, select the second radio button, where the Conventional name will be searched for first, then the Native name second, the Daggered name third, etc., until a GRC name is found. Select how the result will be sorted, with Name being the default already selected. Specify whether elevation information should be displayed in feet or meters(default).

A single Unique Feature ID can be entered to constrain the query to return a single feature's information. If the feature has been modified, and the date is known, it can be provided here as a search criteria. A single Map Scale Range or multiple Map Scale Ranges may be entered to constrain the results and only contain Names that are linked to sources of desired Map Scales. A Joint Operational Graphic(JOG) may be specified.

The next section describes how to limit the query results to certain combinations of specified feature classes or designation codes. Click on any combination of check boxes located above the list boxes to easily select all the items in the list box. Otherwise, click on one or more of the specific items in any of the list boxes that will satisfy the search criteria.

The next section provides the ability to query by minimum bounding rectangle. Coordinates are entered in Degrees-Minutes-Seconds-Direction for the NE and SW corners. All criteria entered for these sections will be applied against the database to constrain the query in order to retrieve the correct data. Next select the output target. Tab Delimited, HTML Preview, or Microsoft Excel Worksheet. Then click on the Search button to begin GIS output generation. Click on the Reset button to return the form to its default values. The last section allows the user to specify which fields should be included in the final GIS output results.

Output is displayed in a tabular form (if HTML preview is selected), or a Tab Delimited file or Excel worksheet of the tabular results is created. Following is an example of HTML output.

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Designation Codes

First, specify the Designation Code, if known, to retrieve the Designation Name(s), or specifiy the Designation Name, if known, to retrieve the corresponding Designation Code(s). The search can specify partial words by selecting one of Exact Match, Contains, Starts With, or Ends With from the drop down list of choices. It may also include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. Finally, the search results may be ordered either by name or code. To start over, click on the Reset button, or to begin the search, click on the Search button.

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ADM1 Codes

First, specify the ADM1 Code, if known, to retrieve the ADM1 Name and Country Name(s), or specifiy the ADM1 Name, if known, to retrieve the corresponding ADM1 Code(s). The search can specify partial words by selecting one of Exact Match, Contains, Starts With, or Ends With from the drop down list of choices. It may also include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. Finally, the search results may be ordered either by name or code. To start over, click on the Reset button, or to begin the search, click on the Search button.

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Country Code List

First, specify the Country Code, if known, to retrieve the Country Name(s), or specifiy the Country Name, if known, to retrieve the corresponding Country Code(s). The search can specify partial words by selecting one of Exact Match, Contains, Starts With, or Ends With from the drop down list of choices. It may also include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. Finally, the search results may be ordered either by name or code. To start over, click on the Reset button, or to begin the search, click on the Search button.

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Language Code List

First, specify the Language Code, if known, to retrieve the Language Name(s), or specifiy the Language Name, if known, to retrieve the corresponding Language Code(s). The search can specify partial words by selecting one of Exact Match, Contains, Starts With, or Ends With from the drop down list of choices. It may also include the percent(%) wild card character that searches for 0 or more characters, or the underline(_) wild card character that specifies a single character. Finally, the search results may be ordered either by name or code. To start over, click on the Reset button, or to begin the search, click on the Search button.

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General Information

When entering a Name, always enter the specific part of the Name first, then a comma, then the generic. For example, Rio Grande, Boca should be entered either as Rio Grande, Boca or RioGrande, Boca. Queries that use "Contains" or "Ends With" may severely slowdown the response time. Otherwise, do not enter any punctuation.

Minimum Bounding Rectangle (MBR) Criteria:
Enter the southwest and northeast corner coordinates for the area of interest. Select "N" or "S" for latitude hemisphere and "E" or "W" for longitude hemisphere.

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Point of Contact: GEOnet Names Server
NGA Campus East
phone 571-557-5959, DSN 547-5959
geonames@nga.mil

Document last modified September 19, 2011

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