Vientiane (; French pronunciation: [vjɛ̃ˈtjan]; Lao: ວຽງຈັນ, Viang chan, IPA: [ʋíəŋ tɕàn]) is the capital and largest city of Laos, on the banks of the Mekong River near the border with Thailand. Vientiane became the capital in 1563 due to fears of a Burmese invasion. Vientiane was the administrative capital during French rule and, due to economic growth in recent times, is now the economic centre of Laos.
The estimated population of the city is 760,000 (2015). The city hosted the 25th Southeast Asian Games in December 2009 celebrating the 50 years of Southeast Asian Games.
The name of the city is derived from Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. Although the original meaning of the name of the city is "city of sandalwood", as shown by ancient Lao inscription which wrote according to etymology, unlike modern Lao which is written phonetically, in modern Lao, the meaning of the name Vientiane is ambiguous.
Many, if not most, Lao people claim that the city's name means "city of the moon", while many also claim correctly that the city's name means "city of sandalwood" because the words for "moon" (ຈັນ or ຈັນທຣ໌ from chandra चन्द्र in Sanskrit) and "sandalwood" (ຈັນ or ຈັນທນ໌ from chandana चन्दन in Sanskrit) are written and pronounced identically as "chan" in modern Lao. Most academic and historic Lao sources claim that the city's name does in fact mean "city of sandalwood", reinforced by the city's Thai (เวียงจันทน์) and Khmer (វៀងចន្ទន៍) names both retain the etymological spelling, which indicates "city of sandalwood".