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Geographical names


Geographical names are the proper names of geographical features situated on Earth. Most geographical features, be they natural (like continents, mountains, rivers and deserts) or man-created (countries, administration units, localities etc.) have their own names assigned to them. There are, sometimes, more names than one for the same feature, while various forms and pronunciations sometimes exist in various languages. Apart from geographic coordinates, these names should allow rapid and simple identification of the countries, regions localities and physiographic features. The need for standardization of geographical names is evident from the above, that is setting and approval of names recognised as the most appropriate for various features. This is of the greatest importance at the present time of enormous growth of information technologies and various forms of mass communications.

Geographical names can be divided into formal and unofficial. Formal names are those approved by an standardization body and used within the area of its competence. These are so called standardised endonyms e.g. Warszawa, London, België and Belgique, Italia, New Zealand. The second group constitutes other name forms. These can be universally used, customary or colloquial names, but differing from those accepted as formal (e.g. Kudowa instead of the formal Kudowa-Zdrój, names in languages appearing in a given area but not enjoying the status of formal language, that is local, native, minority (e.g. Kaszub - Kaszebë).

Names also appear expressed in a language not appearing in a given country, e.g. the Polish name Paryż for the French Paris or the French Varsovie and English Warsaw for the Polish Warszawa. These are so-called exonyms defined as names used in a given language for geographical features being outside the region where the language is of official status and differing from formal names in the language or languages in the region where the given features lie. These frequently are testimony of historical connections of those who use them from even distant countries. That is also valid for the Polish language which teems with geographical names related to features outside Poland's borders. They have often been shaped down the centuries and as part of the culture heritage, should be upheld if they have been consolidated and are generally used. However, consistent within UN recommendations, its is improper to uphold those exonyms which have gone out of use, are not widely known or were carelessly introduced and turned out to be artificial. Original names should be used in all doubtful cases.