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Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary

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The Bottom Line

Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary is an incredible geographic reference that should be in every geographically literate home. With 48,000 detailed entires on everything from towns to continents, it is an excellent source for geographical and historical information about places around the globe.
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  • More than 48,000 entries on geographic places.
  • An incredible reference.


  • Most recent edition (1997) is becoming dated.


  • Third edition, published in 1997.
  • 48,000 alphabetical entries.
  • 250 black and white maps.
  • Hardcover; 1361 pages.

Guide Review - Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary

I had owned my copy of Merriam Webster's Geographical Dictionary for just a few weeks when it replaced my World Almanac and Book of Facts and even Goode's World Atlas as my favorite geographic reference. It appears much older than its actual age as I pick up the "green book" several times a day to obtain basic or detailed information for just about any place in the world.

The dictionary has over 48,000 entries which range from obscure towns to mountain ranges to the countries of the world. It includes almost all places in the United States with a population greater than 2,500. The threshold for inclusion of places outside the U.S. varies (from those over 4500 in Canada to those over 100,000 in Bangladesh and China). Significant physical features, international organizations, and historical names for places are also included in the alphabetical gazetteer.

Each country has a lengthy entry which includes population data, a brief history, alternative names, pronunciation, political division, chief products, and more. I'm constantly amazed at the information which has been included in this 1,361 page book.

In addition to information about thousands of places, the dictionary includes over 250 excellent black and white maps of countries, U.S. states, and Canadian provinces.

The 1997 edition is the third edition of this excellent reference. The second edition was published in 1972 so there have been some major geographic changes and the third edition is very well updated but beginning to become outdated.

I highly recommend this phenomenal hardbound book. It's a must for everyone with an interest in geography and the planet. With a suggested retail price of about $30 it's quite a bargain and it's even cheaper if ordered online.

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