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Public-images-osm logo.svg name
Helena, Montana.jpg
The primary name: in general, the most prominent signposted name or the most common name in the local language(s). Show/edit corresponding 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

This key is set to the primary name of the feature in the real world. It is the most important of several name-related keys.


Main article: Names

As a rule of thumb, the primary name is the most obvious name of the feature, the one that end users expect data consumers to expose in a label or other interface element.

The usual sources of primary names are:

  • The most prominent name on a sign posted on the feature itself, especially for a feature in the built environment
  • The name of the feature on a sign elsewhere, such as a guidepost
  • Common or official usage, especially for a feature in the natural environment

source:name=* can be used to explicitly indicate how the name of the feature was determined.

Sometimes these sources disagree: a single feature may be known by a different name to different people or in different places. In case of doubt, OpenStreetMap favours the situation "on the ground". For example, the primary name of a disputed territory would match the usage of the side that has on-the-ground control of the territory.[1] However, the on-the-ground rule is not absolute; you may need to use common sense.

Some common cases where use of the on-the-ground rule should be relaxed include:

  • If a city is locally known by a nickname, it is better to put the nickname in loc_name=* and put the standard name into name=*, even if locals don't use the standard name as much.
  • If a signpost abbreviates the name to save space, but the name can reasonably be spelled out in full, the name=* should also be spelled out in full.
  • If an official name is more unwieldy or obscure than another name for the same feature and fewer people use it in practice, even if it is signposted, it is better to put the official name in official_name=* or alt_name=* than to treat it as the primary name.
  • Chain stores (such as supermarkets, apparel stores, fast-food restaurants, or gas stations) are often known locally under the brand name, rather than an individual, shop-specific name. In those cases, it is acceptable to use the same value for name=* and brand=*, and to describe the shop's assigned, lesser-known name under official_name=* or its code under ref=*. However, the naming convention may be chain- or country-specific.
  • If a sign is obviously in error, use a different source for the name=*. The not:name=* tag can be used to document the incorrect sign, for the benefit of future mappers.

The primary name is generally in the local language or languages; see #Multiple names below. If you are unfamiliar with the area, try to match local conventions. However, you may need to make an exception if the real name of a feature is in a different language than the predominant local language. For example, a tourist-oriented gift shop or a grocery that caters to an immigrant community may be named in a foreign language.[2]

When not to use

Do not use name=* if:

  • The feature is unnamed in the real world. If it is of a type that is typically named, such as a street, use noname=yes to affirm that the omission of name=* is deliberate, rather than a problem to be fixed by another mapper.
  • The feature is known by a generic term or description such as "toilet" or "basketball court". Use a feature tag to indicate the type in a language-neutral, machine-readable way. You can also use description=* or note=* if other tags do not quite express what distinguishes the feature from others of the same type.
  • The value you are considering adding is not actually a name, but rather an address (such as a house number) or a reference number or code (such as the hole number on a golf course). If an object is of a type that is ordinarily named (for instance, nameless roads are rare but nameless houses or golf holes are common), it is possible that its name might incorporate a reference number. If a road has buildings along it with 'County Route 5' in their street address, its name is likely 'County Route 5'. It should, of course, have the reference number tagged as well.

In general, name=* is supposed to contain solely the name, and not the description, type, location or other properties of an object (such as height, elevation, operator, access restrictions, classification/certification/quality labels...). See Name is the name only.


Key Value Element Comment
name User defined node way area The common default name. Notes:
  • For disputed areas, please use the name as displayed on, e.g., street signs for the name tag
  • Put all alternatives into either localized name tags (e.g., name:tr/name:el) or the variants (e.g., loc_name/old_name/alt_name)
  • Do not abbreviate words: abbreviations
name:<xx> User defined node way area Name in different language; e.g., name:fr=Londres. Note that all key variants below can use a language suffix. See: Multilingual names.
name:left[:<xx>], name:right[:<xx>] User defined way Used when a way has different names for different sides (e.g., a street that's forming the boundary between two municipalities).
int_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area International name. Consider using language specific names instead; e.g., name:en=.... International does not (necessarily) mean English. It is used to give the name transliterated to Latin script in Belarus, Bulgaria, Greece, Kazakhstan and Northern Macedonia
loc_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Local name.
nat_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area National name.
official_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Official name. Useful where there is some elaborate official name, while a different one is a common name typically used. Example: official_name=Principat d'Andorra (where "name" is name=Andorra).
old_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Historical/old name, still in some use.
ref_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Unique, human-readable name of this object in an external data management system.
reg_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Regional name.
short_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Should be a recognizable commonly-used short version of the name, not a nickname (use alt_name for that), useful for searching (recognized by Nominatim).
sorting_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Name, used for correct sorting of names — This is only needed when sorting names cannot be based only on their orthography (using the Unicode Collation Algorithm with collation tables tailored by language and script, or when sorted lists of names are including names written in multiple languages and/or scripts) but requires ignoring some parts such as:
  • ignoring leading articles, or
  • lowering the relative importance of first names cited before a last name,
  • ignoring the generic part of a street name when it occurs before the specific name (e.g., in French with "rue", "boulevard", "place", etc.),

all of them being ignored at the primary sort level and not easily inferable by a preprocessing algorithm.

alt_name[:<xx>] User defined node way area Alternative name by which the feature is known. If there is a name that does not fit in any of the above keys, alt_name can be used; e.g., name=Field Fare Road and alt_name=Fieldfare Road, or name=University Centre and alt_name=Grad Pad. In rare cases, the key is used for multiple semicolon-separated names; e.g. alt_name=name1;name2;name3, but this usage is not preferred.
nickname[:<xx>] User defined node way area Nickname (e.g. "Warschauer Allee" for BAB 2 in Germany relation 3140168).
name_1 , name_2 , ... Do not use this tag, suffixed name tagging for multiple values is deprecated.

This table is a wiki template with a default description in English. Editable here.

Key variants can be suffixed with date namespace suffix (such as "old_name:en:1921-1932").

For all documented suffixed subkeys, see Category:Key descriptions for group "names".

Multiple names

If you have multiple names for a feature, first try to choose a rich semantic tag from the table above (like short_name=*, old_name=*, etc.). If none of them work, default to alt_name=*. If there are multiple names that do not fit, alt_name=* can be used with semicolons.

Sometimes name=* itself can contain multiple values (often separated by semicolons):

  • In multilingual regions or localities, multiple names in different languages may be relevant enough to include in name=*. A separator other than a semicolon, such as "/" or "-" (spaced or not), may be customary locally. This is not a substitute for language-specific keys, such as name:en=* for English.
  • Some international boundary features (often bodies of water) have multiple values in name=*, so as not to favour one country's preferred name over another's.
  • In relatively rare cases, there may be a tie on less prominent features such as points of interest. For example, a single business may go by two names interchangeably and post each name on different sides of the building. Before overloading name=* with multiple values, make sure it is truly a tie and there is not a more structured way to represent the naming situation.[3]

Some renderers turn semicolon delimiters into something more aesthetically pleasing, such as an em dash or line break, but many other data consumers assume only a single value in name=*, so a semicolon could appear verbatim, surprising users.

Possible tagging mistakes

If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
  • name=* ‒ "*" does not mean any value
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!
  • nome=* ‒ Italian, Portuguese
If you know places with this tag, verify if it could be tagged with another tag.
Automated edits are strongly discouraged unless you really know what you are doing!

See also

  • name:etymology=* – The subject commemorated in the name of an element
  • 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
  • description=* – Used to describe a feature
  • Multilingual names


  1. Official OpenStreetMap Foundation statement on the project's practices regarding disputed boundaries, borders, names, and descriptions.
  2. Gift shops in Bethlehem may have names in English, but the primary name for the town of Bethlehem will certainly not be in English.
  3. For example, this is a single shop that calls itself "Fun House" in front where customers park but "Flag House" in the rear where customers enter.