Old English land, lond, "ground, soil," also "definite portion of the earth's surface, home region of a person or a people, territory marked by political boundaries," from Proto-Germanic *landom (cf. Old Norse, Old Frisian Dutch, German, Gothic land), from PIE *lendh- "land, heath" (cf. Old Irish land, Middle Welsh llan "an open space," Welsh llan "enclosure, church," Breton lann "heath," source of French lande; Old Church Slavonic ledina "waste land, heath," Czech lada "fallow land").
Etymological evidence and Gothic use indicates the original sense was "a definite portion of the earth's surface owned by an individual or home of a nation." Meaning early extended to "solid surface of the earth," which had been the sense of the root of Modern English earth. Original sense of land in English is now mostly found under country. To take the lay of the land is a nautical expression. In the American English exclamation land's sakes (1846) land is a euphemism for Lord.