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Public-images-osm logo.svg name
Helena, Montana.jpg
The primary proper name: in general, the most prominent signposted proper name or the most common proper name in the local language(s). Edit this description in the wiki page. Edit this description in the data item.
Group: names
Used on these elements
may be used on nodesmay be used on waysmay be used on areas (and multipolygon relations)may be used on relations
Documented values: 27
Status: de facto
Main article: Names

The name key specifies the usual proper name of the object in the real world. Proper names name a single object in a group of similar objects. It is the most important of several name variants.

Basic Concept

Proper names are a constant naming of certain individuals such as persons, places, streets, rivers, etc.Proper names are only unique in the usual context: "The Red Lion" pub in the quarter, "Main Street" in the town, "Mary's Wool Room" in the district, etc. In larger contexts, additions are often necessary for uniqueness. These are not part of the proper name.

Multiple Proper Names

As a rule, it is very simple: the name is signposted and is also used as such by the locals. If several proper names exist for a feature, the tag name is set to the primary respectively the most common proper name. There is a rich selection of name variants for the other proper names:

  • old_name=* Historical or old proper name, still in some use
  • official_name=* The proper name in the authority environment, often a more cumbersome form of the common proper name
  • alt_name=* An alternative common proper name, e.g. a variation of the spelling

furthermore loc_name, int_name, nat_name, reg_name, short_name, sorting_name ... For a complete list of all variants of the proper names, see the table name variants. All name variants can also be specified in other languages, e.g. name:fr=Londres. See Multilingual names.

In multilingual regions or places, several names in different languages may be shown for the name, so that no language is favoured. A separator other than a semicolon, such as "/" or "-" (spaced or not), may be customary locally. For example this relation uses name=Biel/Bienne. See Multiple names.

Descriptive Names

Descriptive names such as "Tesco Car Park" or "Brandon Town Map" are not usually proper names. However, proper names can arise from descriptions. The transition is completed by constant naming in independent sources. "Westminster Abbey" and "Cologne Cathedral" are examples of this.

The transition to a proper name is a grey area where every point of view has its justification. In cases of doubt, tend to use the description=* tag.

Disputed Names

If the dispute can not be resolved through discussion, then the simple default rule is whatever name are used by the people on the ground at that location are used. For further information see Solving Disputes and the Official OpenStreetMap Foundation statement on the project's practices regarding disputed boundaries, borders, names, and descriptions.


It is generally preferable to record names based on field observations. If other sources are used, it may be useful to indicate the source used with the key source:name=*. Possible sources:

  • Ground truth - signposted proper names. According to the OTG principle, it is the preferred source
  • Official truth - proper names as part of laws, ordinances and decrees. See also official_name=*
  • General knowledge - the identical naming of an object in different, independent sources is an indication of a proper name.

In cases where sources disagree, consider the name variants.

When to use

Only use it for the primary proper name.

Do not use it for

  • Common names: "Football Pitch", "Toilet" ...
  • Descriptive names: "Tesco Car Park", "Brandon Town Map" ...
  • Constructed names: "EuroVelo 1 - Atlantic Coast Route - part United Kingdom 1"

Use it thoughtfully for

  • Brand names: "Tesco", "Aldi" ...

Brand names are proper names of product lines such as ‘McDonald's’ or ‘Tesla Supercharger’. If the individual object (the shop, the station ...) does not have an individual name, there are two views to set name=* of the object:

  1. brand=* AND name=* are set to the brand name because it is a proper name
  2. ONLY brand=* is set to the brand name and the tag name=* is omitted because the individual object does not have an individual name.

How to map

Add name=* to the object.

See also

  • Names
  • name:pronunciation=* - A phonetic guide to pronouncing the name
  • name:etymology=* - The subject commemorated in the name of an element
  • Multilingual names
  • noname=yes - Used to mark the absence of a name, where something really does not have a name in reality
  • strapline=* - Official strapline used in an advertising slogan next to the name, commonly seen on signs
  • unnamed=* - Used to mark the absence of a name, when it was verified to have no name defined in reality. Consider using noname=* instead
  • description=* - to describe a feature.