In both Belgium and the Netherlands, the native official name for Dutch is Nederlands. Sometimes Vlaams ("Flemish") is used as well to describe Standard Dutch in Flanders. Over time, the Dutch language has been known under a variety of names. In Middle Dutch Dietsc, Duutsc, or Duitsc was used. It derived from the Old Germanic word theudisk, which literally means "popular" or "belonging to the populace". In Western Europe this term was used for the language of the local Germanic populace as opposed to Latin, the non-native language of writing and the Catholic Church. In the first text in which it is found, dating from 784, theodisce refers to Anglo-Saxon, the West Germanic dialects of Britain.
 Although in Britain the name Englisc replaced theodisce early on, speakers of West Germanic in other parts of Europe continued to use theodisce to refer to their local speech. With the rise of local powers in the Low Countries during the Middle Ages, language names derived from these local polities came in use as well i.e.Vlaemsch, Hollandsch, and Brabantsch. The more powerful the local polity, the wider the use of its name for the language became. These names still survive in the corresponding dialect groups spoken today.
Owing to commercial and colonial rivalry in the 16th and 17th centuries between England and the Low Countries, a cognate of theodisk (most likely Middle Dutch Duutsc) was borrowed into English and developed into the exonym Dutch, which came to refer exclusively to the people of the Netherlands. (A usage of the English term Dutch that includes German survives in the United States in the name Pennsylvania Dutch for a local German dialect and its speakers, commonly believed to be a corruption of their endonym Deitsch.) In the Low Countries on the contrary, Dietsch or Duytsch as endonym for Dutch went out of common use and was gradually replaced by the Dutch endonym Nederlands. This designation started at the Burgundian court in the 15th century, although the use of neder, laag, bas, and inferior ("nether" or "low") to refer to the area known as the Low Counties goes back further in time. The Romans referred to the region as Germania Inferior ("Lower" Germania). It is a reference to the Low Countries' downriver location at the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta near the North Sea.
From 1551 the designation Nederlands received strong competition from the name Nederduits ("Low Dutch;" Dutch is used here in its archaic sense that covers all continental West Germanic languages). It is a calque of the aforementioned Roman province Germania Inferior and an attempt by early Dutch grammarians to give their language more prestige by linking it to Roman times. Likewise, Hoogduits ("High Dutch") came into use as a Dutch exonym for the German language, spoken in neighboring German states. However, 19th century Germany saw the rise of the categorisation of dialects, and German dialectologists termed the German dialects spoken in the mountainous south of Germany as Hochdeutsch ("High German"). Subsequently, German dialects spoken in the north were designated as Niederdeutsch ("Low German"). The names for these dialects were calqued in the Dutch language area as the exonyms Nederduits and Hoogduits. As a result, Nederduits no longer served as a synonym for the Dutch language, and Nederlands prevailed as sole Dutch endonym. It also meant that Hoog ("High") had to be dropped in one of the two meanings of Hoogduits, leading to the narrowing down of Duits as Dutch exonym for the German language, and Hoogduits as reference for southern German dialects.