A new class of benzimidazole-substituted 8-hydroxyquinoline ligands has been prepared that contain a monoanionic tridentate N,N,O-coordinating unit. These ligands form charge-neutral lanthanide complexes of the type [Ln(LR) 3] · nH2O or [Ln2(L2)3] · nH2O (n ) 1-3) with early lanthanides from LaIII to GdIII inclusive. Crystallographic characterization was carried out for 11 complexes with 6 different ligands. In all of these structures, the lanthanide ion was found to be nine-coordinated by three ligands arranged in an “up-up-down” fashion around the metal center. The coordination environment can be described as a tricapped trigonal prism, with N atoms of quinoline rings occupying capping positions. Upon deprotonation of the ligand and complex formation, a new absorption band appears in the visible range of the spectrum with a maximum in the range of 466-483 nm and molar absorption coefficient of (7.2 - 18) × 103 M-1 cm-1. Its origin is likely to be an intraligand phenolate-to-pyridyl charge transfer transition centered on the 8-hydroxyquinolate chromophore. Upon excitation in ligand absorption bands, new NdIII complexes display characteristic metal-centered luminescence in the near-infrared region from 850 to 1450 nm with quantum yields and lifetimes in solid state at room temperature as high as 0.34% and 1.2 μs, respectively.