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From earlier (19th-century) leija, from Proto-Baltic *ley-ya-, from *ley-ā, from Proto-Indo-European *l̥-ey, from the zero grade of *el-, *Heh₃l- (to bend, to incline) (whence also elkonis (elbow), q.v.) with a suffix -ey. The meaning probably evolved as follows: “bent inward” > “inwardly bent earth”, “valley” > “lower area.” Cognates include Gothic 𐌿𐌽𐌳𐌰𐍂𐌻𐌴𐌹𐌾𐌰 (undaerleija, lower, smaller), Ancient Greek λειμών (leimṓn, humid, grassy place, humid meadow) (lower places are often humid).


From Proto-Finnic *liha.