Utah Place Names

A Geopgraphic Guide to the Origins of Geographic Names, a Compilation

Poverty Flat. Bearskin Gulch. Drunken Hollow. Soberville. Hogup Mountain. Lousy Jim Creek. Hey Hoe Canyon. Snake John Reef. Sob Rapids. Nipple Butte. Tooele. Laverskin. Skutumpah. All Utah toponyms, or place names. Where are they? What is their history? Their importance? Are they, or where they populated? Do they exist today? And always, The name. how did they get it? Who provided it? When? What does it mean? Is Centerville in the center, and of what? Was Notom named for a rejected suitor?

John W. Van Cott has spend the better part of a lifetime searching out the answers to these questions. Now the fruits of his labor are recorded in this, the most extensive compilation of Utah place names ever published. Almost five thousand toponyms are listed alphabetically, marking the passage of peoples and cultures from earliest times. Specialists will appreciate the geographical precision of Section, Township, Range, and altitude. Generalists will recognize counties and relationships to know features. All will delight in the rich lore, often a mixture of myth and history, of the place and its name. Scholars will find useful the inclusion of synonyms, nicknames, previous names, all cross-referenced, and all tied to a bibliography of over five hundred entries.

The author concluded his work of over forty years with the observation that he hardly touched the surface of Utah’s place names, numbered at over twenty-two thousand by the U.S. Geological Survey.

John W. Van Cott is former supervisor of General Botany Laboratories in the botany and Range Science Department at Brigham Young University. During World War II he was the Lieutenant of Police on the Manhattan Project at Hanford Richland, Washington and has worked for both the U.S. Forest Service and the now non-existent U.S. Grazing Service. He was a charter member of the Utah State Committee on Geographic Names, and Founding President of the Utah Place Names Society.

Praise and Reviews:
“The book is scholarly and complete—but it is also a lot of fun. Van Cott includes the folklore, the myth and mystery, the logic and reasoning that have made our map what it is. This is a great book for browsing in, for starting conversations with, for simply enjoying as a window on the past.”
Desert News

“The first full-length account of Utah’s toponyms, which range from the prosaic to the wonderfully evocative. A worthy addition to western Americana.”
—Western American Literature

“Took me on a dizzying psychotronic journey through Utah geography.”
—The Daily Utah Chronicle