The earliest name of the city was Admaʾ (Aramaic: אדמא, also written Adme, Admi, Admum) recorded in Assyrian cuneiform in the seventh century BC.
The Syrian town was refounded as a Hellenistic military settlement by Seleucus I Nicator in c. 303 BC, named Edessa after the ancient capital of Macedonia, perhaps due to its abundant water, just like its Macedonian eponym. It was renamed Callirrhoe or Antiochia on the Callirhoe (Ancient Greek: Ἀντιόχεια ἡ ἐπὶ Καλλιρρόης; Latin: Antiochia ad Callirhoem) in the 2nd century BC (found on Edessan coins struck by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, r. 175–164 BC).
After Antiochus IV's reign, the name of the city reverted to Edessa and Urhai. The city's name appears as Armenian: Ուռհա, transliterated Urha or Ourha, in Syriac as Ōrhāy (ܐܘܪܗܝ), and in Arabic as الرُّهَا ar-Ruhā, and Riha the Kurdish languages, Latinized as Rohais, and finally adopted in Turkish as Urfa or Şanlıurfa ("Glorious Urfa"), its present name. This originally Aramaic and Syriac name for the city may have been derived from the Persian name Khosrow.
It was named Justinopolis in the early 6th century. According to Jewish and Muslim traditions, it is Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.