Vol. 67 No. 2 (2019)

A Clash of Names: The Terminological Morass of a Toponym Class

Published 2019-04-03


  • nicknames,
  • bynames,
  • anthroponymics,
  • cognomina,
  • Old Norse,
  • terminology,
  • medieval names
  • ...More


There are place names all around the world formed by a combination of two elements, a specific and a generic, both of which refer to the same geographic feature type. A typical pattern is for an indigenous generic functioning as a specific to precede a matching introduced generic. For example: Ohio River < Iroquoian Ohio ‘Great River’ + River; and Lake Rotorua < Māori roto ‘lake’ + rua ‘two/second’ (‘Second Lake’) + Lake. Such toponyms, though not overall numerous, nevertheless occur often enough to warrant being recognized as a distinct class of place names. The literature provides no adequate or consistent term for this pattern: the various attempts clash with each other, and all fail to address the concept effectively. This article aims to address this situation.


  1. Borgmann, Dmitri A. 1973. “An Onomastic Study (Part 2).” Word Ways 6. no. 3: 176–180. Accessed September 29, 2017. http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/wordways/vol6/iss3/13
  2. Cabré, M. Teresa. 1999. Terminology: Theory, Methods and Applications. Amsterdam: John Benjamins B.V.
  3. Committee for Geographical Names in Australasia. 1996. Glossary of Generic Terms, Version 1.0. Commonwealth of Australia: Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping. Accessed October 05, 2017. www.icsm.gov.au/cgna/glossary_pnames.pdf
  4. Crowley, Terry. 1997. An Introduction to Historical Linguistics. 3rd ed. Auckland: Oxford University Press.
  5. Downing, Laura. 2015a. “What is Reduplication? Typology and Analysis, Part 1/2: The Typology of Reduplication.” Language and Linguistics Compass 9. no. 12: 502–515.
  6. Downing, Laura. 2015b. “What is Reduplication? Typology and Analysis, Part 2/2: The Analysis of Reduplication.” Language and Linguistics Compass 9. no. 12: 516–528.
  7. Geographical Names Board of Canada. 2011. Principles and Procedures for Geographical Naming. Ottawa: Natural Resources Canada. Accessed September 29, 2017. www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/pdf/gnames/GNBC_english_accessible.pdf
  8. Grant, Jeff. 2008. “Accidental Tautonyms.” Word Ways 41. no. 4: 293–296. Accessed October 05, 2017. http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/wordways/vol41/iss4/15
  9. Hartmann, Reinhard R. K., and Gregory James. 1998. Dictionary of Lexicography. London: Routledge.
  10. Inkelas, Sharon and Cheryl Zoll. 2005. Reduplication: Doubling in Morphology. Cambridge University Press.
  11. Inkelas, Sharon. 2008. “The Dual Theory of Reduplication.” Linguistics 46. no. 2: 351–401.
  12. International Council of Onomastic Sciences. 2012. List of Key Onomastic Terms. Accessed September 29, 2017. http://www.icosweb.net/index.php/terminology.html
  13. Kadmon, Naftali, ed. 2000a. Glossary of Toponymic Terminology. Version 4, 1 February, Part 1: English. UNGEGN. Accessed September 29, 2017. http://www.ngi.be/NL/glossary/glossang-inf.htm
  14. Kadmon, Naftali. 2000b. Toponymy: The Lore, Laws and Language of Geographical Names. New York: Vantage Press.
  15. Landau, Sidney I. 2001. Dictionaries: The Art and Craft of Lexicography. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  16. Marantz, Alec. 1982. “Re Reduplication.” Linguistic Inquiry 13. no. 3: 435–482.
  17. Mattes, Veronika. 2007. “Types of Reduplication: A Case Study of Bikol.” PhD diss., Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz. Accessed October 05, 2017. http://reduplication.uni-graz.at/texte/Dissertation_gesamt.pdf
  18. Nash, David. 2008. “Examining the Name Element/Feature Type Cowal.” Unpublished paper presented to ANPS/CGNA workshop, Rydges Hotel, Wollongong, Australia, 11 October.
  19. Nicolaisen, Wilhelm F. H. 1975. “Place-Names in Bilingual Communities.” Names 23. no. 3: 167–174.
  20. Nuessel, Frank. 1992. The Study of Names: A Guide to the Principles and Topics. Westport (CT): Greenwood Press.
  21. Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles. 1989. London: Oxford University Press.
  22. Puder, Jim. 2009. “More Accidental Tautonyms.” Word Ways 42. no. 3: 174–180. Accessed October 05, 2017. http://digitalcommons.butler.edu/wordways/vol42/iss3/9
  23. Room, Adrian. 1996. An Alphabetical Guide to the Language of Name Studies. London: The Scarecrow Press Inc.
  24. Sanders, Berit. 2016. “Names and Language Contact.” In The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming, edited by Carol Hough, 540–553. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  25. Tent, Jan. 2001. “A Profile of the Fiji English Lexis.” English World-Wide 22. no. 2: 211–247.
  26. U.S. Board on Geographic Names. 2016. Principles, Policies, and Procedures / Domestic Geographic Names. Version 1.0. Reston (Virginia): Domestic Names Committee. Accessed October 05, 2017. https://geonames.usgs.gov/docs/DNC_PPP_DEC_2016_V.1.0.pdf