The Netherlands' turbulent history and shifts of power resulted in exceptionally many and widely varying names in different languages. There is diversity even within languages. This holds also for English, where Dutch is the adjective form and the misnomer Holland a synonym for the country "Netherlands". Dutch comes from Theodiscus and in the past centuries, the hub of Dutch culture is found in its most populous region, Holland, home to the capital city of Amsterdam; government headquarters at The Hague; and Europe's largest port Rotterdam. Referring to the Netherlands as Holland in the English language is similar to calling the United Kingdom "England" by people outside the UK. The term is so pervasive among potential investors and tourists, however, that the Dutch government's international websites for tourism and trade are "holland.com" and "hollandtradeandinvest.com".
The region of Holland consists of North and South Holland, two of the nation's twelve provinces, formerly a single province, and earlier still, the County of Holland, a remnant of the dissolved Frisian Kingdom. Following the decline of the Duchy of Brabant and the County of Flanders, Holland became the most economically and politically important county in the Low Countries region. The emphasis on Holland during the formation of the Dutch Republic, the Eighty Years' War and the Anglo-Dutch Wars in the 16th, 17th and 18th century, made Holland serve as a pars pro toto for the entire country, which is now considered either incorrect, informal, or, depending on context, opprobrious. Nonetheless, Holland is widely used in reference to the Netherlands national football team.
The region called the Low Countries (comprising Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and the Country of the Netherlands, have the same toponymy. Place names with Neder (or lage), Nieder, Nether (or low) and Nedre (in Germanic languages) and Bas or Inferior (in Romance languages) are in use in places all over Europe. They are sometimes used in a deictic relation to a higher ground that consecutively is indicated as Upper, Boven, Oben, Superior or Haut. In the case of the Low Countries / Netherlands the geographical location of the lower region has been more or less downstream and near the sea. The geographical location of the upper region, however, changed over time tremendously, depending on the location of the economic and military power governing the Low Countries area. The Romans made a distinction between the Roman provinces of downstream Germania Inferior (nowadays part of Belgium and the Netherlands) and upstream Germania Superior (nowadays part of Germany). The designation 'Low' to refer to the region returns again in the 10th century Duchy of Lower Lorraine, that covered much of the Low Countries. But this time the corresponding Upper region is Upper Lorraine, in nowadays Northern France.
The Dukes of Burgundy, who ruled the Low Countries in the 15th century, used the term les pays de par deçà (~ the lands over here) for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà (~ the lands over there) for their original homeland: Burgundy in present-day east-central France. Under Habsburg rule, Les pays de par deçà developed in pays d'embas (lands down-here), a deictic expression in relation to other Habsburg possessions like Hungary and Austria. This was translated as Neder-landen in contemporary Dutch official documents. From a regional point of view, Niderlant was also the area between the Meuse and the lower Rhine in the late Middle Ages. The area known as Oberland (High country) was in this deictic context considered to begin approximately at the nearby higher located Cologne.
From the mid-sixteenth century on, the "Low Countries" and the "Netherlands" lost their original deictic meaning. They were probably the most commonly used names, besides Flanders, another pars pro toto for the Low Countries, especially in Romance language speaking Europe. The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) divided the Low Countries into an independent northern Dutch Republic (or Latinised Belgica Foederata, "Federated Netherlands", the precursor state of the Netherlands) and a Spanish controlled Southern Netherlands (Latinised Belgica Regia, "Royal Netherlands", the precursor state of Belgium). The Low Countries today is a designation that includes the countries the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, although in most Romance languages, the term "Low Countries" is used as the name for the Netherlands specifically. It is used synonymous with the more neutral and geopolitical term Benelux.