The letter L is not one to be taken lightly. While it is virtually impossible to label one letter as more important than the next, it is certainly hard to imagine the world without our treasured L. Without it there would be no "love," "licking" would be "icking," and "likes" would just be "ikes" which would be much too close to "yikes." There are a total of nine countries on Earth that begin with the letter L, and each has its own unique story. How did they come to be, and where do their names originate? Here is a brief look, in alphabetical order.
Origin Of Country Names That Start With The Letter L
The country of Laos has a steep history dating back to before 2000 BCE. Interestingly, while westerners pronounce the ‘s’ at the end of this country’s name, those who live there do not. Laos was part of the French empire of Southeast Asia in the late 19th century, with their rule in the country ending after World War II. As a result, a significant minority of Laos speaks French, and French is often used as a business language.
The name “Laos” refers to the Lao people, who are the dominant ethnic group in the country today. This group represents a line of the Tai people who originated in mainland Southeast Asia. By the 8th century CE, the Tai people had a large kingdom in southwestern China. Over centuries, the Lao and Tai people banded together and took over the areas in which Indigenous people were living in what is now known as Laos. And the rest, is history.
Similar to Lithuania, which also finds itself on this list, Latvia has its roots in the Baltic people, an Indo-European group from the Baltic Sea region who came to this region as early as 3000 BCE. Found in northeastern Europe bordering on Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, and Russia, this country gained its independence from the U.S.S.R in 1991, ending decades of foreign rule that began in the late 18th century. The name “Latvia” comes from the word “Latgalians,” the Baltic sub-group that settled in today's Latvia. These people were one of four Baltic groups. This region was also invaded by the German Saxons in the 1200s, with their unpopular rule here lasting 300 years.
Lebanon is located along the Mediterranean sea. A close neighbor to both Syria and Israel, its population is a mixture of many cultures that have both lived in this area for thousands of years, and tried to conquer it. Early on, this area was home to the Semitic Canaanites, whom the Greeks called “Phoenicians.” This was because they sold purple dye with a similar name. These early inhabitants called their land Lebanon and referred to themselves as "Men of Sidon." The name “Lebanon” is said to come from the Semitic root that means “white” or “milk”, in reference to the snow-capped peak of Mount Lebanon. The earliest recorded uses of this name date back to the Epic of Gilgamesh, from 2900 BCE.
At one time a French colony, independent Lebanon was once a prominent state in the Arab world, a banking center and political capital. This changed following a long-term civil war, lasting from 1975 to 1990. Since then, the country has been working towards achieving political and economic stability, but there have been, and will continue to be, many bumps in the road.
Found in southern Africa, Lesotho is named for the Sotho people who live in the high grasslands of this area. The nation’s history goes back a long way. In the Neolithic Period which started around 10,000 BCE, also called the New Stone Age, Lesotho was inhabited by hunter-gatherers who also farmed and moved across the grassy areas of Southern Africa. They eventually settled in the Caledon River valley, becoming the best hunters in the area.
After a long history of political autonomy which can be accredited to its mountainous terrain preventing encroachment, the land we now call Lesotho became a British colony in 1959 under the name Basutoland. But they achieved their independence only a few years later in 1966, and with that came the name under which they are known today.
Liberia, which sits on the western coast of Africa, has a unique history. Interestingly, this country is Africa’s oldest republic. Liberia was established by the American Colonization Society in 1822 and is the only Black state on the continent to have never been subjected to colonial rule. It was set up as a place for newly freed slaves from the US to live.
The American Colonization Society was formed by whites in the US in response to the increasing number of freed Black former slaves in the country. The motives of the members of this group were broad: some were abolitionists and believed former slaves had a right to return to their land of origin if they wished, and others felt that the rise of free Black people in the US posed a threat to whites in the country. Some former slaves went to Liberia of their own accord and others were “granted their freedom” only if they agreed to travel back to this area of Africa, leaving the US. “Liberia” refers to the “free land” these people came to call home.
Situated on the Mediterranean Sea and bordered by Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Egypt, the North African country of Libya dates back to around 8000 BCE. This country was home to Neolithic people who raised cattle and grew crops and is now famous for being full of oil and led by Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.
Many groups of people have occupied the area since the Neolithic peoples, including the Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Vandals, and Byzantines. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it was invaded and occupied by the Arabs before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. It went through various periods under the Ottoman rule where it was virtually autonomous, the three distinct regions composing it remaining separate politically and economically before Italy invaded in 1911 and claimed Libya as a colony. It was during Italian rule that this land became known as Libya, and the three regions were unified despite little uniting them culturally.
So, where does the nation get its name? The term “Libya” comes from the Egyptian word “Libu” which is the name for one of the tribes of Berber people who live west of the Nile. In Greek this word is pronounced as “Libya,” and the Italians revived the ancient Greek term. In ancient Greece Libya had a larger meaning however, and was sometimes used in reference to larger parts of Africa or even the continent as a whole.
A landlocked location of wealth in Europe, Liechtenstein is known for being a tax haven for the rich. The country has been trying to re-establish its image recently, as a legitimate financial hub. The country’s name is German in origin, and it means “light stone.”
Independent since 1866, it was previously part of the Holy Roman Empire, then the Confederation of the Rhine and the German Confederation. Liechtenstein has a constitutional monarchy and underwent a significant industrial revolution after World War II.
The name “Lithuania” is of Baltic origin, but scholars still do not agree on what it means. The county of Lithuania dates back to about 10,000 BCE, around the time of the end of the last Ice Age. The hunter-gatherers that lived at the time slowly came to be replaced by farming peoples Baltic tribes are thought to have come and begun inhabiting the area some time around 2500 BCE. They trade with the Romans and fought off Vikings, but the ancestors of the Lithuanians and Latvians remained Pagan in their cultures and practice until the Middle Ages, with little influence from the outside world until then.
The land today known as Lithuania officially adopted Christianity in 1386, and allied with Poland against German invasion, but Poland-Lithuania was broken up and Lithuania came under Russian rule in the late 18th century. When the Russian Empire crumbled in World War I, Lithuania achieved brief independence, World War II came along and with it occupation by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, both Empires ruling viciously and genocidally. In 1990, Lithuania became the first country controlled by the Soviets to regain its independence. The country went to great lengths to try to catch up with the economic development that had talked place in the rest of Europe, but the fact remained it was decades behind. Today, Lithuania is working hard to modernize its society, and has been a member of the European Union since 2004.
Lucilinburhuc is the original name for Luxembourg, and it refers to a historic castle commissioned by Siegfried I of Ardennes. Ardennes first got a hold of the territory that surrounds what is now Luxembourg in 936 AD, and consequently had the castle built. Today, Luxembourg is a prominent landlocked financial center in Europe, situated between France, Belgium, and Germany.
Luxembourg is a small country in Europe that was part of several different kingdoms before it became its own independent state under Ardennes. It has remained separate, if not always totally independent, since then.