For years, travelers have been debating the finer points of how to pronounce Laos.
While people who haven't visited the country tend to pronounce the 's' at the end, many travelers leave the 's' silent and use the local pronunciation that sounds like 'lao' (rhymes with cow).
Laos was split into three kingdoms, with the residents referring to themselves as 'Lao people' until the French united the three in 1893, added an 's' to make it plural, and began referring to the collective as Laos.
There isn't really a final 's' in the Lao language, so locals don't typically use the European addition. And technically the official name of the country is the Lao People's Democratic Republic, or short, Lao PDR.
I prefer the local pronunciation of 'Lao', however, I've received a few blank stares in conversation with other travelers until we sorted out that the country in question was Laos.
How do you say Laos?
Whichever you prefer, the friendly Lao people would never correct you, and you'll have a blast exploring this beautiful, mountainous part of Southeast Asia!
- See a country profile and some Laos travel essentials.