Wikipedia:Naming conventions (events)

The following guidelines apply to Wikipedia article titles for events and incidents, such as military and political conflicts, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, transportation and industrial accidents, health outbreaks, and the like.

This guideline complements the WP:Article titles policy and should be read and understood that way. In the case of any contradictions the policy page takes precedence.


If there is an established, common name for an event (such as the Great Depression, Cuban Missile Crisis or a "Bloody Sunday"), use that name. In the majority of cases, the title of the article should contain the following three descriptors:

  • When the incident happened.
  • Where the incident happened.
  • What happened.
Examples of "when", "where" and "what" titles
  • 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami
    • When: 2011. There are no other "Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami" articles in Wikipedia, but the year is a useful identifier.
    • Where: Tōhoku
    • What: earthquake and tsunami
  • 1993 Russian constitutional crisis
    • When: 1993. There are no other "Russian constitutional crisis" articles in Wikipedia, but the year is a useful identifier as constitutional crises reoccur, and other incidents in Russian history could be construed as a constitutional crisis.
    • Where: Russia
    • What: constitutional crisis

Some articles do not need a year for disambiguation when, in historic perspective, the event is easily described without it. As this is a judgement call, please discuss it with other editors if there is disagreement.

The month or days should not be used in the title unless other descriptors are insufficient to establish the identity of the incident, for example, May 1995 tornado outbreak sequence. The date is not needed when the article pertains to events that are unlikely to recur, such as Rescue of Giuliana Sgrena; or murder or death articles that can only happen once (such was Death of Neda Agha-Soltan or Assassination of Boris Nemtsov).

Examples of some events that are so immediately identifiable that the date is not needed in the article title:

Only "where" and "what"
Only "when" and "what"
  • September 11 attacks
    • When: September 11 (year not needed for disambiguation)
    • "Where" is not a good descriptor because the events happened in different places.
    • What: attacks
Only "where"
  • Babi Yar
    • Where: ravine in Ukraine where thousands of people were massacred during World War II


For the "what" part of the name, try to be specific but neutral. "Accident" is not a neutral word, because it implies the event was truly accidental, and not a reasonably foreseeable consequence of willful or negligent actions. Only use the term "accident" if a competent authority has concluded the event was accidental after a thorough investigation, and this finding is not controversial or contradicted by another authority, such as a court of law.

Try to avoid the words disaster, tragedy and crisis because this characterization is too subjective. It is preferable to use specific event names, such as collision, collapse, explosion, outbreak, pandemic, sinking, oil spill, and the like. The word "disaster" implies a certain level of destruction; only use the word if an incident was more destructive than most other accidents, and non-local reliable sources consistently characterize it as such over a significant period of history. Only use the word crisis when it meets the definition, such as a constitutional crisis. Per the established guidelines in WP:NCCAPS, do not capitalize the second or subsequent words in an article title except for proper names.

Transportation incidents[edit]


Aviation accidents and incidents should generally be titled according to the air carrier and flight number for commercial air transport related events. In aviation, the terms "accident" and "incident" are defined in the Convention on International Civil Aviation Annex 13, and these standards should be followed in naming aviation related events. If there were two or more aircraft involved, or if the flight did not have a flight number assigned, use the "where and what" convention stated above. Avoid using the informal terms "plane" or "plane crash". Article titles should not contain the year of the incident unless needed for disambiguation.


Maritime incidents should be titled according to the ship name; add a descriptor to differentiate from a separate article about the ship. Use the Template:DISPLAYTITLE to italicize ship names. Examples:

Bridge and train[edit]

Bridge collapses and train wrecks should be named according to the "where and what" convention. The default name should contain the term "train wreck", unless a more specific description such as "derailment" or "collision" is supported by the facts alone without interpretation. "Train collision" includes incidents where a train collided with another vehicle, such as a bus. If an event is commonly known by another name historically, such as a "Great Train Wreck," in reliable sources, use that name.

Health incidents and outbreaks[edit]

Health incidents should also be titled according to the "where and what", with year added for disambiguation. If an outbreak stems from a specific company, use the company name. Use the Template:DISPLAYTITLE to italicize disease names if needed. Capitalize disease titles only if the disease itself is a proper noun. Examples:

Industrial accidents and incidents[edit]

Industrial accidents and incidents should generally be titled according to the year, the location and a description of what occurred. The year may be added to be helpful. Capitalize proper names of buildings, places and companies, but do not capitalize generic terms such as fire, explosion or disaster. Use the Template:DISPLAYTITLE to italicize ship and oil rig names. Examples:

Tornados and tornado outbreaks[edit]

Tornado and tornado outbreak events should follow the earliest applicable style below:

  1. If there is a unique commonly accepted name, use it in accordance with Wikipedia:Naming conventions (common names). Example: Tri-State Tornado
  2. If more than one name is in common use, the name used by NOAA or an official weather agency should take precedence except in extraordinary circumstances, and there should be redirects from any other names. Example: 1980 Grand Island tornado outbreak
  3. If more than one event share the same name (even if the other event may not have its own article), follow the accepted name with the year (or, if needed, the month/date). The date will serve as a disambiguator. Example: Palm Sunday tornado outbreak
  4. If there is no accepted name, the name should be formatted as follows: tornado, tornado outbreak, or tornado outbreak sequence, followed by Geographic location (only if necessary: City, State, Country, Continent, or any combination of these), followed by Year (or Month/year, or day/month/year if need be). Example: Tornado outbreak of April 14–16, 2011

Maintaining neutral point of view[edit]

Article names for current and historical events are often controversial. In particular, the use of strong words such as "massacre" can be a focus of heated debate. The use of particular strong words is neither universally encouraged nor discouraged. The spirit of these guidelines is to favour familiar terms used to identify the event. Rules to select a name should be applied in the following sequence:

  1. If there is a particular common name for the event, it should be used even if it implies a controversial point of view.
  2. If there is no common name for the event, and there is a generally accepted word used when identifying the event, the title should include the word even if it is a strong one such as "massacre" or "genocide" or "war crime". However, to keep article names short, avoid including more words than are necessary to identify the event. For example, the adjective "terrorist" is usually not needed.
  3. If there is no common name for the event and no generally accepted descriptive word, use a descriptive name that does not carry POV implications. See above for how to create a descriptive name.


A common name or standing expression exists if most English speakers who are aware of the topic call it the same thing. Slight variations on the name, such as changes in word order, count as the same common name. For example, World War II is often called the Second World War; they are close enough to be considered variations of the same common name.

A generally accepted word is a word for which there is consensus, among scholars in the real world, on its applicability to the event. The use of a strong word may still be controversial among politicians, Wikipedia editors, or the general public.

Resolving conflicting points of view[edit]

Regardless of which rule applies, there may still be different points of view on how to characterize the event, and some of these points of view may be contrary to the title. These points of view should be discussed in the article. However, the title may contain a word of questionable neutrality, such as "massacre" or "terrorism," if this word is part of the common name. Also, redirects may be used to direct biased titles to a more neutral title.


  • My Lai massacre: This is a common name, and scholars generally agree that a massacre took place. Rule #1 applies, and rule #2 would give the same result.
  • Rape of Nanking: This is the common name (Rule #1 applies), but redirects to Nanking Massacre, which in view of everything that happened is probably a better title since more than just rapes occurred. However, "massacre" probably shouldn't have been capitalized.
  • War on Terror: This is a common name, so it should be used even though many people consider it to be propagandistic. Rule #1 applies.
  • Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse: "Torture" was a controversial word here. There is no common name, so rule #1 does not apply. There is general scholarly agreement that torture has taken place, so rule #2 kicks in.
  • War in Darfur: The term "Darfur genocide" is used, but is not common enough to constitute a common name, so rule #1 does not apply. Many people consider the conflict to be a genocide, however there is no general scholarly agreement on this yet, so rule #2 does not apply. Hence rule #3 applies, and "war" is used instead of "genocide."
  • September 11 attacks: A debate here concluded that there was no common name for the event. Scholars agree that the events were acts of terrorism, however adding the word "terrorist" to the title would have given it more words than necessary to identify the event.

See also[edit]