The database is part of a system that includes topographic map names and bibliographic references. The names of books and historic maps that confirm the feature or place name are cited. Variant names, alternatives to official federal names for a feature, are also recorded. Each feature receives a permanent, unique feature record identifier, sometimes called the GNIS identifier. The database never removes an entry, "except in cases of obvious duplication."
The GNIS accepts proposals for new or changed names for U.S. geographical features through The National Map Corps. The general public can make proposals at the GNIS web site and can review the justifications and supporters of the proposals.
The United States Census Bureau (USCB) defines Census Designated Places as a subset of locations in the National Geographic Names Database.
United States Postal Service (USPS) Publication 28 gives standards for addressing mail. In this publication, the postal service defines two-letter state abbreviations, street identifiers such as boulevard (BLVD) and street (ST), and secondary identifiers such as suite (STE).