International Council of Onomastic Sciences

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The International Council of Onomastic Sciences (ICOS) is an international academic organization of scholars with a special interest in onomastics, the scientific study of names (e.g. place-names, personal names, and proper names of all other kinds). The official languages of ICOS are English, French, and German.

Work of the scholars of ICOS[edit]

Members research the origin and history of names, the personal name-systems used by different cultures, the demographic patterns of names in different societies, the use and significance of names of characters in literature, brand-name creation, and many related topics in the naming of persons, places, institutions, works of art, and other miscellaneous objects. They are also involved in practical projects such as the international standardization of geographical names. The aim of ICOS (as opposed to the many national societies for name-study) is the advancement, representation and co-ordination of name-research on an international level and in an interdisciplinary context. To that end, it is engaged in the publication of research and the development of research tools as described below. The Council's members are drawn from disciplines such as linguistics and philology, history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, geography and literary research. This organization has replaced the former International Committee of Onomastic Sciences, which was a closed society consisting exclusively of co-opted representatives of countries. The former body was therefore not open to individual scholars as the present one is.


ICOS publishes the annual journal ONOMA, which is its official publication. ONOMA is managed by a General Editor in conjunction with an Editorial Board. It contains topical research reports as well as basic theoretical articles concerning all areas of scholarly name research. Presently, each issue is thematic, and has a guest editor. ICOS also publishes an irregular newsletter. ISSN 0078-463X.

Working groups[edit]

ICOS has two active working groups, striving:

  1. to create an international bibliography of name-study
  2. to help create an internationally agreed technical terminology for name-study


The International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, which is normally held every three years, is a major academic conference organized on behalf of ICOS by one of its members. The General Assembly of ICOS, which also functions as its business meeting, and at which its officers are elected, is usually held at these congresses. The ordinary business of ICOS is transacted by the elected Board of Directors.


  1. Paris, 1938
  2. Paris, 1947
  3. Bruxelles [Brussels], 1949
  4. Uppsala, 1952
  5. Salamanca, 1955
  6. München [Munich], 1958
  7. Firenze [Florence], 1961
  8. Amsterdam, 1963
  9. London, 1966
  10. Wien [Vienna], 1969
  11. Sofia, 1972
  12. Bern, 1975
  13. Kraków, 1978
  14. Ann Arbor, 1981
  15. Leipzig, 1984
  16. Québec, 1987
  17. Helsinki, 1990
  18. Trier, 1993
  19. Aberdeen, 1996
  20. Santiago de Compostela, 1999
  21. Uppsala, 2002
  22. Pisa, 2005
  23. York University, Toronto, 2008
  24. Barcelona, 2011
  25. Glasgow, 2014

The Proceedings of each Conference to no. 20, as well as those of no. 23, have been published. Three volumes of no. 21 have also been published, and the first of no. 22, and the rest are in preparation.


  • Professor Hendrik Jozef van de Wijer (Leuven), 1950-1968
  • Professor Henri Draye (Leuven), 1969-1983
  • Professor Karel Roelandts (Leuven), 1984-1990
  • Professor Wilhelm F.H. Nicolaisen (New York / Aberdeen), 1990-1996
  • Professor Robert Rentenaar (Amsterdam), 1996-1999
  • Professor Isolde Hausner (Vienna), 1999-2002
  • Dr Mats Wahlberg (Uppsala), 2002-2005
  • Professor Maria Giovanna Arcamone (Pisa), 2005-2008
  • Professor Sheila Embleton (Toronto), 2008-2011
  • Professor Carole Hough (Glasgow), 2011-2014

See also[edit]

External links[edit]