The name Langkawi is thought to have existed by the early 15th century, although in the 16th century the island of Langkawi was also marked on maps variously as Langa, Langka, Lansura, and Langapura.[5]

There are many suggestions for the origin of the name of Langkawi. According to one interpretation, Langkawi means island of the reddish-brown eagle, a Brahminy kite in colloquial Malay.[6] The Malay word for eagle is helang (colloquially shortened to lang), and kawi is a red stone used as a chalk to mark goods.[5] This interpretation was used to create the landmark sculpture of an eagle as the symbol of Langkawi at Dataran Helang (Eagle Square) in Kuah.[7][8]

Some believed that Langkawi is the same as, or related to, the Lanka or Langkapuri mentioned in Indian sources.[9] This ancient name Lanka (or Lankapura and Lankapuri) is found in Indian literature from an early period (named in Ramayana as the city of the king Ravana), although the identification of the original Lanka is not certain.[10] Puri or puram in Sanskrit means a town or city. The name Langkawi is also thought to be related to Langkasuka, an old kingdom believed to have links with Kedah.[11] Some also thought that Langkawi means "many beautiful islands", langka being a Sanskrit word meaning "beautiful" while wi means "many".[5]

In 2008, the then-sultan of Kedah, Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, conferred the title of Langkawi Permata Kedah (meaning 'Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah') upon the island as part of his golden jubilee as an affirmation of Kedah's ownership over the island

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