Minnesota Historical Society
Our online store is operating with reduced staff and limited product availability. Email questions to shop@mnhs.org.

Minnesota Place Names

Temporarily Unavailable


A Geographical Encyclopedia
The classic reference for place-name information on the state's cities, towns, townships, lakes, and streams. Revised and thoroughly updated from the 1920 original.

The names of places, the names that people give to the land, the rivers, the towns, and the cities, contain miniature history lessons, stories wrapped up in a few words. Naming a place is a way of connecting to it and making it more familar. An important aspect of identity, place names honor the past, telling who came before us, and they speak to the future, telling of our hopes and ambitions. And sometimes, they're simply products of our whimsy.

From Big Bird Lake to Cucumber Island, Big Stone to Wanamingo, Puposky Township to the Zumbro River, thousands of discoveries await the reader of Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia. Newly revised, expanded, and updated, this classic book tells the stories behind more than 20,000 names of the towns and cities, townships and counties, lakes and rivers of the North Star state.

This comprehensive volume is a browser's delight and a rich reference for historians, linguists, geographers, folklorists, genealogists, and those interested in the origin of place names. It includes tales for such curious place names as Embarrass and Sleepy Eye, Bemidji and Climax, the Rum River and Man Trap Lake. Did you know that the Rat Root River was named for the roots that fed muskrats that populated its banks, or that Winona is the Dakota word for "first-born daughter"?

Published originally in 1920 as the culmination of Warren Upham's lifetime of collecting Minnesota minutiae, this book is a remarkable achievement and classic of Minnesota history. For this revised edition, the staff of the Minnesota Historical Society combed recent literature and databases to update entries and add new names.

In this handsome new edition, Minnesota Place Names captures much of the lost lore of familiar places and of towns that have disappeared--and of the people who made the state what it is today.


  • By: Warren Upham
  • Format: Cloth, 736 pp., 7
  • Publisher: MNHS Press
  • Product ##: 9780873513968

    Warren Upham, an archaeologist, geologist, and librarian, acquired an extensive and detailed knowledge of the Minnesota landscape while working on the state geological survey from 1879 to 1885, covering some 50 counties and over 11,000 miles on foot and horseback. In 1896 he became superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, an institution he served until his death in 1934.


    Praise for the previous edition of Minnesota Place Names:

    "[This] is not a dry reference book. Instead it is a story of Minnesota and of the families who settled here and in many cases gave their names to lakes . . . or townships. It will revive memories of counties left long ago by youths who went to the cities and made their fortunes and will inspire delving into family lore." -- St. Paul Pioneer Press

    "If you want the 'name of the place,' and the 'how and why' of it, it's all there, county by county, townships, cities and villages, lakes and streams." -- Conservation Volunteer

    "Probably the best study of place-names done for any state in the Union." -- Michigan History

    You also Viewed

    Join our Mailing List

    Sign up to receive our daily email and get 50% off your first purchase.