Animal Naming: International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature

Ever wonder who or what is responsible for making sure that every living creature has an official scientific name?  Just one of the scholarly societies that helps to shoulder this momentous task is the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature or ICZN. The ICZN is responsible for ensuring that the system of names used for the animal kingdom is internationally uniform and accepted.  Founded in 1895, the ICZN currently is made up of 27 members from 18 different countries around the world.  Given the millions different recognized animal species that walk, crawl, hop, slither, swim, glide, pounce, or wiggle about on, over, or below the Earth’s surface today, the commission certainly has its work cut out for it.  Interested in learning more about the types of names that can be proposed, the animals waiting for a new or revised moniker, or the buying and selling of scientific names?  The answers to those questions and many, many more, can be found here.

Persuasive Cartography: The PJ Mode Collection

Contrary to popular belief, maps do not offer a neutral, objective view of the world but reflect the sociocultural perspectives, personal political opinions, religious beliefs, and underlying commercial objectives of the people who create them.  In cooperation with Cornell University, map specialist PJ Mode has assembled a fascinating collection of more than 800 examples of persuasive cartography. Visitors to this historical e-collection will be surprised and quite likely shocked by the power of cartography to affect public opinion. Browse the collection or learn more here.

“Every map has a Who, What, Where and When about it. But these maps had another element: Why? Since they were primarily “about” something other than geography, understanding the map required finding the reasoning behind it. Each time I acquired one of these maps, I tried to solve that puzzle. As the internet developed, it became easier to come across these “curiosities” – and easier to research their raison d’etre.”

-PJ Mode

Directory of the UK Map Collections now an online database

The Directory of the UK Map Collections has now been converted to a database. The directory database lists all of the major map collections in the British Isles and is run by the British Cartographic Society (BCS). Visit the website to browse for free!

Collections include:

  • National Libraries
  • National Mapping Agencies
  • Government Libraries & Archives
  • Corporation of London
  • London Museums, Societies, Institutions, Businesses, etc.
  • University & College Libraries
  • Museums, Societies, Institutions, Businesses, etc. outside London
  • Northern Ireland
  • Local Authority Libraries

Join “Tropical Toponymy”, Facebook group on African place names

A Facebook group on Tropical Toponymy has been started. The purpose of the group is to share information about African place names. Anyone interested is warmly invited to join.

The website Ghana Place Names was started in 2010 as “a research project to find the meanings and origins of as many place names in Ghana as possible”. The intention of the Tropical Toponymy group is to broaden the scope and give opportunity for contributors to share their knowledge of place names anywhere on the continent of Africa. It is hoped that this will enable comparisons to be made and identify similarities and differences in naming motivations in the different cultures.

If you are interested, please request membership of the group. If you would like to contribute information about a place name, if possible please give at least the country & approximate location, and the meaning of the name. Some account of how the place got its name would also be useful. A picture of the place helps to make the name less abstract. Questions are also welcome, in the hope that other readers will be able to help. Relevant announcements and links may also be posted.

Resources: International Name Societies

Reach out to your local name society!




North America


United States

South America



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Resources: Journals

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Resources for Place Names

Learn more about place names on the following websites: – Find countries, cities, towns, villages, mountains, hills, rivers, lakes, islands, and other geographic and administrative place names.

GeoNames – geographical database of place names

Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names – find information about named places

Scots Words and Place-names – glossary of Scots words which are used in place-names

Gaelic Place-names of Scotland – national advisory partnership for Gaelic place-names in Scotland.… Read More