Lithuania's name in writing 1009
The first known record of the name of Lithuania (Lithuanian: Lietuva) is in a 9 March 1009 story of Saint Bruno recorded in the Quedlinburg Chronicle (Latin: Annales Quedlinburgenses). The Chronicle recorded a Latinized form of the name Lietuva: Litua (pronounced [litua]). Due to the lack of reliable evidence, the true meaning of the name is unknown. Nowadays, scholars still debate the meaning of the word and there are a few plausible versions.
There have been several attempts to associate Lietuva with Celtic toponyms, and with Latin or Italian words, but these attempts all lack strong linguistic support. According to a widespread popular belief, the word Lietuva (Lithuania) originated from the Lithuanian words lyti (to rain) and lietus (rain). However, there is no serious scientific support for this theory. Since the word Lietuva has a suffix (-uva), the original word should have no suffix. A likely candidate is Lietā. Because many Baltic ethnonyms originated from hydronyms, linguists have searched for its origin among local hydronyms. Usually such names evolved through the following process: hydronym → toponym → ethnonym.
A small river not far from Kernavė, the core area of the early Lithuanian state and a possible first capital of the eventual Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is usually credited as the source of the name. This river's original name is Lietava. As time passed, the suffix -ava could have changed into -uva, as the two are from the same suffix branch. The river flows in the lowlands and easily spills over its banks, therefore the traditional Lithuanian form liet- could be directly translated as lietis (to spill), of the root derived from the Proto-Indo-European *leyǝ-. It is believed that Rimgaudas (father of Mindaugas) ruled the area of Kernavė. However, the river is very small and some find it improbable that such a small and local object could have lent its name to an entire nation. On the other hand, such a naming is not unprecedented in world history.
While the word's etymology continues to be debated, scientists agree that the primary origins of the ethnonym were the Lithuanian forms *Lētuvā/Lietuva, which were then used by different languages, including Slavic. It is very unlikely for the name to have derived from a Slavic language, since the Slavic -i- (и) could never be transliterated into the Lithuanian diphthong -ie-.
Among other etymologies of the name of Lithuania there is Artūras Dubonis' hypothesis, that Lietuva relates to the word *leičiai (plural of leitis, a social group in the early Grand Duchy of Lithuania). From the middle of the 13th century, leičiai were a distinct social group of the Lithuanian society subordinate to the Lithuanian ruler or the state itself. They were living in the Vilnius and Trakai Voivodeships manors. Possibly, already in the 14th century part of them became bajorai. Another meaning of leičiai is used in the 14th – 16th centuries historical sources as an ethnonym for Lithuanians. It is believed that occasionally all Lithuanians were called using it (except for Samogitians). The word leiši (plural of leitis) is an ethnonym for the Lithuanians which is still used, usually poetically or in historical contexts, in the Latvian language, which is closely related to Lithuanian.