The Low Countries from 1556 to 1648
Southern part of the Low Countries with bishopry towns and abbeys ca. 7th century. Abbeys were the onset to larger villages and even some towns.
Historically, the term Low Countries arose at the Court of the Dukes of Burgundy, who used the term les pays de par deçà (roughly, "the lands over here") for the Low Countries as opposed to les pays de par delà (roughly, "the lands over there") for the Duchy of Burgundy and the Free County of Burgundy, which were part of their realm but geographically disconnected from the Low Countries. Governor Mary of Hungary used both the expressions les pays de par deça and Pays d'Embas (roughly, the "lands down here"), which evolved to Pays-Bas or Low Countries. Today the term is typically fitted to modern political boundaries and used in the same way as the term Benelux, which also includes Luxembourg.
The name of the modern country the Netherlands has the same meaning and origin as the term "low countries" due to "nether" meaning "lower". The same name of these countries can be found in other European languages, for example German Niederlände, French, les Pays-Bas, and so on, which all literally mean "the Low Countries". In the Dutch language itself (known in Dutch as Nederlands, meaning "Netherlandish") no plural is used for the name of the modern country. So Nederland (singular) is used for the modern nation and de Nederlanden (plural) for the 16th century domains of Charles V. (However, in official use the name of the Dutch kingdom is still Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlanden), a name deriving from the 19th-century origins of the kingdom which originally included present-day Belgium.)
In Dutch, and to a lesser extent in English, the Low Countries colloquially means the Netherlands and Belgium, sometimes the Netherlands and Flanders—the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium. (This version does not include Luxembourg.) For example, a "Derby der Lage Landen" (Derby of the Low Countries), is a sports event between Belgium and the Netherlands.
"Belgium" was renamed only in 1830, after splitting from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in order to distinguish it from its northern neighbour. It had previously also commonly been referred to as one part of the geographic "Netherlands", being the part which remained in the hands of the Habsburg heirs of the Burgundian Dukes until the French Revolution. Politically, before the Napoleonic wars, it was referred to as the "Southern", "Spanish" or later "Austrian" Netherlands. It is still referred to as part of the "low countries".