Geographical Initial Articles

When is an initial article dropped for geographic names?

The rules for this differ slightly for geographic entities that are political jurisdictions (cities, towns, states, etc.) and those that are not political jurisdictions (archaeological sites, geographic features, roads, valleys, etc.).

Political Jurisdictions

  • Drop all initial articles, including the beginning of geographic names in Arabic, Urdu, Hebrew

and Yiddish.

Name of Entity Final Form of Heading

  • Al Ajman [city in the United Arab Emirates] ‘Ajman (United Arab Emirates)
  • The Dalles [city in Oregon] Dalles (Or.)
  • La Habana [capital of Cuba] Havana (Cuba)

However, for other non-English geographic names keep the initial article when that retention is supported by current gazetteers in the country’s language.

Name of Entity Final Form of Heading

  • Los Angeles [city in California] Los Angeles (Calif.)
  • El Callao [city in Venezuela] El Callao (Venezuela) [supported in current gazetteers as “El Callao”]
  • Non-Jurisdictional Geographic Names

If a geographic feature is located in a non-English speaking country: � And begins with an article, then drop the initial article and include a generic term (in English) that describes the feature. (Always anglicize the names of features that are located in non-English-speaking countries.)

Name of Entity Final Form of Heading

  • La Huasteca [a region in Mexico] Huasteca Region (Mexico)
  • Los Cévennes [mountains in France] Cévennes Mountains (France)
  • El Cerrejón [a mountain in Colombia] Ejón Hill (Colombia)

For features in English-speaking countries:

  • With non-English names, retain the initial article.
    • Name of Entity Final Form of Heading
    • Los Olmos Creek [a stream in Texas] Los Olmos Creek (Tex.)
    • El Capitan [a mountain in California] El Capitan (Calif.)
  • With an English name that begins with The as an integral part of the name, then retain he article and invert the name.
    • Name of Entity Final Form of Heading
    • The Fens [a region in England] Fens, The (England)

With any geographic feature, select the English form of a name as opposed to the vernacular whenever possible.

  • Vernacular English
  • Øresund [the sound between The Sound Denmark and Sweden]

Note that, following the rules above, the final form of this heading would be: Sound, The (Denmark and Sweden).

For more comprehensive explanations of all of the above, refer to the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings – Geographic Headings and Subdivisions – H 690, Section 6 and AACR2, Chapter 23, Section 2.

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