The names of Moldavia and Moldova originate from the historical state of Moldavia, which at its greatest extent included eastern Romania (Western Moldavia), Moldova, and parts of south-western and western Ukraine.
Moldavia/Moldova was named after the Moldova River, which is a Slavic name, derived from Slavic mold-, "spruce, fir". A. I. Sobolevskij derived it from *moldu, "tender, soft, young". The ending -ov(a)/-av(a) is a common Slavic suffix used in appelatives and proper names. -ova denotes ownership, chiefly of feminine nouns. There is significant Slavic influence on Romanian.
The myth, included in works of Grigore Ureche (1590–1647), Miron Costin (1633–1691) and Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723), but given varying levels of credibility by these, was that the hunter Dragoș from Maramureș (the founder of Moldavia) in 1359 hunted for wild oxen, accompanied by female dog Molda who chased an ox into the river where the animal was killed and the dog itself drowned in the water; the river and region was named after the dog.
Other theories is that it is derived from old German Molde, meaning "open-pit mine", or the Gothic Mulda meaning "dust", "dirt" (cognate with the English mould), referring to the river.
The term "Black Wallachia" (Romanian: Valahia Neagră), in Turkish Kara-Eflak, was another name found used for Moldova in the Ottoman period. It derived from Bogdan I of Moldavia; in Ottoman Turkish usage his state was known as Kara-Bogdan (Romanian: Cara-bogdan) and Bogdan-Eflak, "Bogdan's Wallachia".
- Lucian Boia (2001). Romania: Borderland of Europe. Reaktion Books. pp. 55–. ISBN 978-1-86189-103-7.
- André Du Nay (1996). The origins of the Rumanians: the early history of the Rumanian language. Matthias Corvinus Pub. ISBN 978-1-882785-08-7.
- Elemér Illyés (1988). Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area. East European Monographs. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-88033-146-3.
- Nandris (1968), p. 121
- Nandris (1968), p. 122
- Frederick Kellogg (1990). A history of Romanian historical writing. C. Schlacks.
- Johann Filstich (1979). Tentamen historiae Vallachicae. Editura Științifică și Enciclopedică. p. 39.
- Laurențiu Rădvan (1 January 2010). At Europe's Borders: Medieval Towns in the Romanian Principalities. BRILL. pp. 322–. ISBN 90-04-18010-9.
- Nandris, Grigore (1968). Unbegaun, Boris O. (ed.). "Moldova-The Name of the River and the Country". Studies in Slavic linguistics and poetics. New York University Press.
- Andrei Brezianu; Vlad Spânu (26 May 2010). The A to Z of Moldova. Scarecrow Press. pp. 240–. ISBN 978-1-4616-7203-6.
- Mănăilă Maximean, Doina. "A New Theory on the Etymology of the Name of "Moldova"" (PDF). Annals of the Academy of Romanian Scientists. 6 (2/2014): 131-. ISSN 2066-8597.
- John Everett-Heath (13 September 2018). The Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names. OUP Oxford. pp. 1162–. ISBN 978-0-19-256243-2.