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Toponymy, also toponymics or toponomastics (from Ancient Greek: τόπος / tópos, 'place', and ὄνομα / onoma, 'name') is the study of toponyms (proper names of places), their origins and meanings, use and typology.[1][2][3] In a more specific sense, the term toponymy refers to an inventory of toponyms, while the discipline researching such names is referred to as toponymics or toponomastics.[4] Toponymy is a branch of onomastics, the study of proper names of all kinds.[5] A person who studies toponymy is called toponymist. Toponym is the general term for a proper name of any geographical feature,[6] and full scope of the term also includes proper names of all cosmographical features.[7]

Etymology

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word toponymy first appeared in English in 1876. Since then, toponym has come to replace the term place-name in professional discourse among geographers.[citation needed]

Toponymic typology

Toponyms can be divided in two principal groups:

Various types of geographical toponyms (geonyms) include, in alphabetical order:

Various types of cosmographical toponyms (cosmonyms) include:

History

It can be argued that the first toponymists were the storytellers and poets who explained the origin of specific place names as part of their tales; sometimes place-names served as the basis for their etiological legends. The process of folk etymology usually took over, whereby a false meaning was extracted from a name based on its structure or sounds. Thus, for example, the toponym of Hellespont was explained by Greek poets as being named after Helle, daughter of Athamas, who drowned there as she crossed it with her brother Phrixus on a flying golden ram. The name, however, is probably derived from an older language, such as Pelasgian, which was unknown to those who explained its origin. In his Names on the Globe, George R. Stewart theorizes that Hellespont originally meant something like 'narrow Pontus' or 'entrance to Pontus', Pontus being an ancient name for the region around the Black Sea, and by extension, for the sea itself.[31]

Toponomastics

Place names provide the most useful geographical reference system in the world. Consistency and accuracy are essential in referring to a place to prevent confusion in everyday business and recreation.[citation needed]

A toponymist, through well-established local principles and procedures developed in cooperation and consultation with the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN), applies the science of toponymy to establish officially recognized geographical names. A toponymist relies not only on maps and local histories, but interviews with local residents to determine names with established local usage. The exact application of a toponym, its specific language, its pronunciation, and its origins and meaning are all important facts to be recorded during name surveys.

Scholars have found that toponyms provide valuable insight into the historical geography of a particular region. In 1954, F. M. Powicke said of place-name study that it "uses, enriches and tests the discoveries of archaeology and history and the rules of the philologists."[32]

Toponyms not only illustrate ethnic settlement patterns, but they can also help identify discrete periods of immigration.[33][34]

Toponymists are responsible for the active preservation of their region's culture through its toponymy.[Oxford English Dictionary, the word toponymy first appeared in English in 1876. Since then, toponym has come to replace the term place-name in professional discourse among geographers.[citation needed]

Toponymic typology

Toponyms can be divided in two principal groups:

Various types of geographical toponyms (geonyms) include, in alphabetical order: