The name was first recorded by Pomponius Mela in AD 40 and by Pliny in AD 77 in his Natural History. Mela names the river Vistula (3.33), Pliny uses Vistla (4.81, 4.97, 4.100). The root of the name Vistula is Indo-European *u̯eis- 'to ooze, flow slowly' (cf. Sanskrit अवेषन् (avēṣan) 'they flowed', Old Norse veisa 'slime') and is found in many European rivernames (e.g. Weser, Viesinta). The diminutive endings -ila, -ula, were used in many Indo-European languages, including Latin (see Ursula).
In writing about the Vistula River and its peoples, Ptolemy uses the Greek spelling Ouistoula. Other ancient sources spell it Istula. Ammianus Marcellinus refers to the Bisula (Book 22); note the absence of the -t-. Jordanes (Getica 5 & 17) uses Viscla, while the Anglo-Saxon poem Widsith refers to it as the Wistla. 12th-century Polish chronicler Wincenty Kadłubek Latinised the rivername as Vandalus, a form presumably influenced by Lithuanian vanduõ 'water', while Jan Długosz in his Annales seu cronicae incliti regni Poloniae called the Vistula 'white waters' (Alba aqua), perhaps referring to the White Little Vistula (Biała Wisełka): "a nationibus orientalibus Polonis vicinis, ob aquae candorem Alba aqua ... nominatur."
Over the course of history the river possessed several names in different languages such as Low German: Wießel, Dutch: Wijsel, Yiddish: ווייסל Yiddish pronunciation: [vajsl̩] and Russian: Висла.