Geographic terms with the most diverse usage in American and Canadian populated place-names


Source: en.wikipedia.org

Source: en.wikipedia.org

The following lists present those geographic terms used for the widest variety of populated place names in the United States and Canada. the figures were determined using recent road atlases and google maps. The tallies for each term are not meant to be a definitive census, but more of an approximate summary of commonality in the use of these geographic terms.

The geographic term may be anywhere within the populated place-name and does not necessarily have to pertain to the feature.  For example, I did not distinguish whether “spring” referred to the water feature or the season.

In a number of instances, such as “Portland,” multiple terms (“port” and “land”) are utilized in the same populated place-name. In those instances, each geographic term is given one credit.

Whenever known and/or possible to translate, foreign language variations of these same terms were included.

The number adjacent to the geographic term identifies the number of different populated place names that were identified containing the geographic term, NOT the total number of times the term is found in place names. I hope you find this as interesting as I did. If you would like a copy of the excel file, please let me know.

Water-based (with 25 or more variations)

  • Lake(s) – 456 variations
  • Spring(s) – 407
  • Ford(s) – 250
  • Creek(s) – 238
  • Port(s) – 238
  • Bay(s) – 207
  • River(s) – 206
  • Fall(s) – 195
  • Harbo(u)r – 112
  • Brook(s) – 110
  • Water(s) – 93
  • Cove(s) – 71
  • Run – 71
  • Fork(s) – 62
  • Burn – 62
  • Well(s) – 48
  • Sea – 44
  • Haven(s) – 40
  • Rapid(s) – 38
  • Branch – 34
  • Bend – 31
  • Mouth – 27

Land-based (with 25 or more variations)

  • Hill(s) – 300
  • Beach(es) – 253
  • Dale(s) – 237
  • Valley – 208
  • Rock(s) – 171
  • Land(s) – 171
  • Mont(e) – 153
  • Ridge(s) – 125
  • Glen(n) – 120
  • Island(s) – 103
  • Mount(ain) – 83
  • Gap(s) – 58
  • Plain(s)(es) – 57
  • Bluff – 50
  • Stone(s) – 49
  • Shore(s) – 47
  • Vale – 45
  • Dell – 38
  • Bank(s) – 34
  • Cliff(s) – 34
  • Butte(s) – 29
  • Flat(s) – 29

Both water and land based*

  • Linn or Lyn(n) – 48

* Linn can mean waterfall or deep ravine in Scottish.

Others (under 25 variations)

Crest (24), Pass (24), Cape (23), Mound (22), Canyon (21), Summit (20), Ocean (19), Bayou (18), Mere( 17), Bourn(e) (16), Key (14), Level (14), Cave (13), Knob (13), Gulf (9), Mesa, (9), Moor (9), Knoll (8), Stream (8), Coast (7), Coulee (7), Desert (7), Shoals (7), Sound (7), Dune (4), and Lagoon (3).

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3 Responses to Geographic terms with the most diverse usage in American and Canadian populated place-names

  1. Ron Melin says:

    Attending Humboldt State University one becomes familiar with the depositional feature “spit” which are found bordering Humboldt Bay and the lagoons to the north. The term is used in Washington and Alaska as well.

    Like

    • Rick Brown says:

      Interesting. Thank you for the information, Ron.

      Like

      • What a coincidence! I guess my knowledgeability doesn’t count because I have a B.A. in Geography, but here in Chicago I live on the Rosehill Sand Spit, a feature left over from the Pleistocene when Lake Michigan was higher. Many people think it’s an old beach ridge, but it’s a spit. “Spit” is a proper word for this feature in all English-speaking places.

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