Management of place names (geographical names, toponyms) is a fundamental element of heritage and language management. These names derive from all languages spoken in the country now and in the past, and cut across linguistic boundaries, involving the implementation of diverse and sometimes conflicting orthographic rules.

Geographical names are essential elements in effective communication, e.g.

  • in cartography (a map is meaningless without names);
  • administration and governance;
  • cultural heritage promotion;
  • economic development;
  • environmental management;
  • communication systems, postal and other deliveries;
  • travel, transportation, and tourism;
  • disaster management and emergency services coordination;
  • peace-keeping, safety, and security;
  • education and science;
  • global media, etc.

Geographical names represent the largest and most significant component of the common or shared heritage of a nation, incorporating and preserving the history, culture, and identity of the people, as well as reflecting a nation’s image.

Geographical names in South Africa are specifically relevant because of the changing toponymic landscape resulting from the implementation of the South African Geographical Names Council Act of 1998; the social, political, and linguistic implications of name changes that have been and are being effected, and the ramifications of the requirements of relevant clauses in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The Southern African Dictionary of Place Names is one of the products that stems from research within the toponymic field.


T: +27 51 401 2240 or

Marizanne Cloete: +27 51 401 2592

Neliswa Emeni-Tientcheu: +27 51 401 2536
Phyllis Masilo: +27 51 401 9683

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