The earliest written appearance of the name Finland is thought to be on three runestones. Two were found in the Swedish province of Uppland and have the inscription finlonti (U 582). The third was found in Gotland. It has the inscription finlandi (G 319) and dates back to the 13th century. The name can be assumed to be related to the tribe name Finns, which is mentioned at first known time AD 98 (disputed meaning).
The name Suomi (Finnish for "Finland") has uncertain origins, but a candidate for a source is the Proto-Baltic word *źemē, meaning "land". In addition to the close relatives of Finnish (the Finnic languages), this name is also used in the Baltic languagesLatvian and Lithuanian. Alternatively, the Indo-European word *gʰm-on "man" (cf. Gothic guma, Latin homo) has been suggested, being borrowed as *ćoma. The word originally referred only to the province of Finland Proper, and later to the northern coast of Gulf of Finland, with northern regions such as Ostrobothnia still sometimes being excluded until later. Earlier theories suggested derivation from suomaa (fen land) or suoniemi (fen cape), but these are now considered outdated. Some have suggested common etymology with saame (Sami, a Finno-Ugric people in Lapland) and Häme (a province in the inland), but that theory is uncertain.
The first survived use of word Suomi is in 811 in the Royal Frankish Annals where it is used as a person name connected to a peace treaty.
In the earliest historical sources from the 12th and 13th centuries, the term Finland refers to the coastal region around Turku from Perniö to Uusikaupunki. This region later became known as Finland Proper in distinction from the country name Finland. Finland became a common name for the whole country in a centuries-long process that started when the Catholic Church established missionary diocese in Nousiainen in the northern part of the province of Suomi possibly sometime in the 12th century.
The devastation of Finland during the Great Northern War (1714–1721) and during the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743) caused Sweden to begin carrying out major efforts to defend its eastern half from Russia. These 18th-century experiences created a sense of a shared destiny that when put in conjunction with the unique Finnish language, led to the adoption of an expanded concept of Finland.