gazetteer (găzˌĭtērˈ) [key], dictionary or encyclopedia listing alphabetically the names of places, political divisions, and physical features of the earth and giving some information about each. The term gazetteer originally was applied to one who wrote a gazette. It was first used in its modern sense early in the 18th cent., after the publication (1703) by Lawrence Echard of the Gazetteer's or Newsman's Interpreter, a geographical index. But lists of place names, with descriptions, had been made as early as the 6th cent.; part of the gazetteer of Stephen of Byzantium, of this time, is extant. The 19th cent., when geographical knowledge and the need for having geographical facts readily available had both increased greatly, was the great period of development of gazetteer making. Attempts were made to produce complete gazeteers, necessitating several volumes. Famous gazetteers include Johnston's (Scotland, 1850), Blackie's (Scotland, 1850), Bouillet's (France, 1857), Ritter's (Germany, 1874), Longman's (England, 1895), Garollo's (Italy, 1898), and Lippincott's (United States, 1865; now The Columbia Gazetteer of the World, 1998); later editions of many of these have appeared.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.