Wiktionary:Criteria for inclusion/Place name arguments

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NOTICE: This is not an official policy, or even a draft of one. Please see Wiktionary:Criteria for inclusion for the official Wiktionary policy on place names. See Appendix:Place names for lists of place names. See Wiktionary:Unresolved issues/Place names for old votes.


The sole official policy on the inclusion of place names is given by WT:CFI. However, the policy on place names has been debated a number of times. Criteria that have been proposed at various points in time to replace or supplement the existing criteria are summarized below.

"Inclusion" here refers only to inclusion of entries for individual place names in mainspace. No objections have ever been raised to the inclusion of useful lexical information, such as place name translations or etymologies, in Appendix form. However, advocates of place name inclusion have generally not been satisfied with such a resolution.

Please edit and expand this list


  • Under a strong lexical criterion, place names can be included if and only if they are used to denote or connote something other than their encyclopedic referent. This may or may not be equivalent to current CFI, depending on one's reading thereof.
    • Pro: Keeps us focused on our mission as a dictionary, and avoids unnecessary overlap with Wikipedia.
    • Con: Has bizarre and seemingly arbitrary results (a small town may qualify while a large city does not). May lead to the exclusion of content which most editors think we should have, such as the names of countries. Consequently difficult to enforce.
  • A moderate lexical criterion would allow inclusion of any names which can be shown to be used outside of their local context, or outside of reference to this context. This would resemble the existing criteria for brand names and fictional universes.
    • Pro: Would allow most names that people would plausibly look up in a dictionary, while keeping the basis for inclusion linguistic rather than encyclopedic.
    • Con: No less difficult to enforce than the strong criterion. Could lead to very large numbers of place names about which there is little that can be said. As with brand names, this criterion may lead to disproportionate effort to find citations that add little value to the entry.
  • A weak lexical criterion would apply the same requirements for attestation that are applied to common nouns: attested at least three times in use, conveying meaning, in durable media, spanning at least a year.
    • Pro: Keeps it simple.
    • Con: Allows almost any place name whatsoever, including a vast number of individual streets and buildings.
  • Under an etymological criterion, place names can be included if they are the source of one or more CFI-meeting terms.
    • Pro: Simple, keeps us focused on our mission as a dictionary, and avoids unnecessary overlap with Wikipedia.
    • Con: Has bizarre and seemingly arbitrary results. See under strong criterion above.
  • Under a no-qualifiers criterion, only the core unique part of a placename would be accepted, minus any qualifiers such as "River", "Mountain", or "City". Thus for example, "North Carolina", "Seine", and "Chicago" would be accepted, but "State of North Carolina", "Seine River", and "City of Chicago" would not. Common-sense exceptions would be made, such as for islands and lakes that are seldom referred to without the qualifier.
    • Pro: Avoids encyclopedic gunk.
    • Con: Common-sense exceptions may be tricky, as may the application of the rule to languages that often run the qualifier and root together as a single word.


  • The strongest factual criterion would allow only the names of countries and their capitals. This keeps it simple, but satisfies no one.
  • A merely strong factual criterion would allow countries and their primary administrative divisions (states, provinces, krays), and the capitals of these. It might also allow cities exceeding a certain population threshold, such as 1 million.
    • Pro: Keeps it simple. Allows most names that the community has been unwilling to delete; this would reduce the amount of time and electrons wasted on RFD discussions.
    • Con: Hitches us to a non-lexical wagon. And what to do about historical names? If a city ceases to be the capital of its region, should its entry be deleted? What if the name of the region is changed? Do all synonyms for region or city name count?
  • A moderate factual criterion would include any city or region of demonstrable importance, e.g. one that appears frequently in national or international news.
    • Pro: If it's important, it's important.
    • Con: Pointless overlap with Wikipedia. See also above.
  • A weak factual criterion would include the name of any place that can be demonstrated to actually exist and be called by that name.
    • Pro: Includes everything that we possibly can. Isn't that the wiki way?
    • Con: See above, with prejudice.


  • The lemming criterion: Allow any name that is found in other non-geographical dictionaries.
    • Pro: Easy to enforce.
    • Con: Wimpy. May lead to arbitrary exclusion of some place names while equivalent names are included.
    • Con: Anti-lexical. Most general dictionaries increase their reference value by mixing in an encyclopedic gazetteer, rather than including place names on a lexical basis.
  • The Wikipedia criterion: Allow the name(s) of any place that has its own Wikipedia article.
    • Pro: Straightforward.
    • Con: Hitches us to the worst non-lexical wagon of all. Also, by including only names that are found on Wikipedia, would prevent us from covering names for places that don't happen to meet Wikipedia's criteria for encyclopedic notability, but about which useful information can be provided.
  • The official list criterion: Allow any name that is included in an official list of place names issued by a governing body on geographical nomenclature, such as the US Board on Geographic Names. For countries or regions lacking such a body, an authoritative atlas or gazetteer could be used for citation.
    • Pro: Straightforward. Likely to include all place names that have anything useful to be said about them.
    • Con: Allows a mind-boggling number of names, many for extremely small and obscure geographic features.
    • Con: Prescriptive. This adds entries based on some authority in a different field, and not based on actual usage in the language.


Since toponyms would be treated differently, it may be useful to give them a unique subheading.

  • Proper noun
  • Toponym
  • Place name