This glossary lists common geospatial terms and acronyms, particularly those relating to the New Zealand and Pacific region.

The Open Geospatial Consortium also provide an extensive glossary of terms.

The Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping (ICSM) also provides a publication on ICSM Acronym(s), Initialism and Jargon ‘Buster' (PDF 146KB).

ABLOS Advisory Board on the Law of the Sea

ANZLIC Australian and New Zealand Land Information Council

ASDD Australian Spatial Data Directory

ASIBA Australian Spatial Industry Business Association

ASIERA Australasian Spatial Information Education and Research Association

BSU Basic Spatial Unit

Catalogue   A set of service interfaces which support the organisation, discovery, and access of geospatial information. Catalogues assist in the organisation and management of diverse geospatialdata and services for discovery and access. They are also used to discover resource information from diverse sources and gather it into a single, searchable location and provide a means of locating, retrieving and storing the resources indexed by the catalogue.

CDS Computerised Documentation System

CIESIN Center for International Earth Science Information Network

CLCS United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf

Collection An aggregation of one or more items.

Content metadata standard  An open specification that itemises a set of elements and their meanings. Each element is tagged with an identifier (e.g., "Title", "Author") that distinguishes the element from other elements within the standard. In addition, each element has a set of constraints or rules specifying the allowable content of the element and its relationship to other elements within the standard. Content metadata standard are typically developed to support a specific community of interest (St. Pierre and LaPlant, 1999). 

Controlled vocabulary A subset of natural language, consisting of preferred and non-preferred terms.  The primary purposes of a thesaurus are identified as promotion of consistency in the indexing of documents and facilitation of searching.

CRCSI Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information

CSDGM Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata

Data set A logically meaningful grouping or collection of similar or related data.

DGIWG Defence Geospatial Information Working Group

Directory service A service which stores and manages descriptions of metadata and provides a searchable interface by which descriptions can be found and retrieved.

EOSDIS Earth Observing System Data and Information System

ESRC Economic and Social Research Council

Feature A computer representation of an actual or hypothetical object or event that has measured, or potentially measured, location. Also viewed as geospatial information elements represented as feature types (or feature objects) such as roads, park benches, lands, events, images, DEMs, feature collections etc. (OGC, 2000a).

Feature type A category assigned to a feature from a controlled vocabulary in order to allow for the accessing of information on different features on the basis of the category type they fall under.

FIG International Federation of Surveyors

Gazetteer At its simplest, a list of place names with their associated geographic location.

GEBCO General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans 

GEG Geospatial Executives Group. GEG governs the work of the New Zealand Geospatial Office.

Generalised footprints These include points that represent the approximate centre of a feature (or points derived by some other method) and bounding boxes that represent the maximum latitude and longitude extents of a region.

GEO Group on Earth Observations 

GEOSS Global Earth Observation System of Systems 

GEO profile Geospatial Metadata Profile

Geo-coding The process of assigning to location-based resources explicit geospatial co-ordinates, in a known spatial reference system. Geo-coding augments location-based text (or graphic) references with geospatial co-ordinates (or some other spatial reference). The primary types of geo-coding include:

- Gazetteer service, which geo-codes place name, landmark, point or interest, and so forth (Place Name Geo-coding). A gazetteer is both a structured vocabulary and a feature collection, and thus may support, from the same data structure, all the capabilities of a hierarchical thesaurus and a Web Feature Server.

- Address matching service, which determines the co-ordinates for a given address.

- Feature geo-coding services, which utilise vector maps, tables or other means for obtaining the point, line and area geometry associated with common, location-based coding and naming schemes, like postal codes, districts etc.

Geo-data Refers to the full spectrum of digital geographic data. Examples include: digital maps, raster image data, point vector, vector data, spatial/temporal data etc.

Geographic Of or relating to geography

Geographic data See Geospatial data

Geographic footprint Co-ordinates representing the location of a named place. See also Generalised footprints.

Geography Is the study of the Earth (literally writings about the Earth).
Geographers look for patterns between people (cultural geography) and features (physical geography) and places on Earth. See Tobler's First Law of Geography.
Geography is much more than simply answering where things are - geography is interested in explaining why things are where they are, how they relate, and interestingly predicting how things might change in the future.

Geo-linking The ability to link disparate resources that contain location-based information. It is the process of establishing some logical spatial or temporal relationship between resources that are significant to the user. By linking resources from source to target, it is possible to organise information by easily navigating linked resources. It is either a manual or automatic process.

Geo-parsing The processing of scanning text messages and text documents for location-based references, such as place names, addresses, postal codes, etc., in preparation for passage to a geo-coding fusion service.

Refers to location relative to the Earth's surface. "Geospatial" is more precise in many GI contexts than "geographic," because geospatial information is often used in ways that do not involve a graphic representation, or map, of the information.

Geospatial data A raw form of Geospatial Information (see above). Data is the raw represented facts or recorded observations - that have little meaning on their own. Data becomes information when interpreted and put in context by humans. For example, a spreadsheet of figures for latitude and longitudes and temperatures at those locations are data. In contrast, a map or report than display and describe the data is information.

Geospatial information Information about objects or phenomena that are associated with a location relative to the surface of the Earth. A type of spatial information with reference to the Earth.

Geospatial reference Encompasses both geo-data and geo-services. It is the basic (but abstract) unit of geospatial information in a networked computer system environment. It is a unit of trade in a geospatial information sharing transaction—the primary geospatial item exchanged through geospatial commerce. It is also the primary object manipulated by geospatial software applications.

GI Geographic - or Geospatial - Information

GIAG Geospatial Information Advisory Group


Abbreviation for Geographic Information System.  Essentially, a GIS is a tool for collecting, storing, analysing, and displaying information about the world that relates to a particular place. A GIS has three core

A GIS represents the world through a selection of layers. on a computer

The power of a GIS comes about through combining

GITA Geospatial Information and Technology Association

GML Geography Markup Language

GNS GEOnet Names Server

GRSS IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society

GSDI Global Spatial Data Infrastructure

Hub A single access point where searches can be performed and directed towards distributed services (nodes) hosting metadata.

IAG International Association of Geodesy

ICA International Cartographic Association 

ICAO International Civil Aviation Organisation 


Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping

IHO International Hydrographic Organisation

IMTA International Map Trade Association

Information landscapes This or the term 'landscape' is used to describe a way of presenting different views of information resources to users, according to their interests and needs.  Also called Iscapes.

IOC Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

ISCGM International Steering Committee for Global Mapping 

ISO/TC 211 ISO/TC 211 Geographic Information

ISPRS International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing 

JB GIS Joint Board of Geospatial Information Societies 

LINZ Land Information New Zealand

Location Location is a position in space and time that can be measured and whose co-ordinates can be derived in a particular spatial and temporal reference system. (OGC, 2000a).

Metadata Data about data. Metadata describes how and when and by whom a particular set of data was collected, and how the data is formatted.

NZGO New Zealand Geospatial Office

OGC Open Geospatial Consortium

OGP International Association of Oil and Gas Producers

OS Ordnance Survey

OSDM Australian Office of Spatial Data Management

OSGeo Open Source Geospatial Foundation

PCGIAP Permanent Committee on GIS Infrastructure for Asia and the Pacific

PSMA PSMA Australia Limited, formerly known as Public Sector Mapping Agencies, is an unlisted public company wholly owned by the State, Territory and Australian Governments. It combines spatial data from Australia's governments with technology to create national spatial information datasets. 

SCAR Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research

SCUFN GEBCO Sub-committee on Undersea Feature Names

SOPAC Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission

Tobler's First Law of Geography "Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things." For further details see Tobler W., (1970) "A computer movie simulating urban growth in the Detroit region". Economic Geography, 46(2): 234-240.

UCGIS University Consortium for Geographic Information Science

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

UNGEGN United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names

UNGIWG United Nations Geographic Information Working Group

UNRCCAP United Nations Regional Cartographic Conference for Asia and the Pacific