- Baltic nation, from Lithuanian Lietuva, a name of unknown origin, perhaps from a PIE source related to Latin litus "shore" (see littoral) and thus meaning "shoreland." Related: Lithuanian (c. 1600 as a noun). Kant, who was born in nearby Königsberg, was the first to call attention to its philological purity; it preserves many ancient Indo-European features, and "Lithuanian peasants can understand Sanskrit sentences pronounced by learned scholars" according to the "Encyclopedia Americana" (1919).
[T]he Lithuanian language is remarkable for its great beauty. It has more endearing terms than the Spanish, the Italian or the Russian. If the value of a nation in the whole of humanity were to be measured by the beauty and purity of its language, the Lithuanians would rank first among the nations of Europe. [Elisee Reclus, "Geographie Universelle," 1875]