The name 'Golaghat' originated from the markets established by a business class of people called Marwari during the middle of 19th century at the bank of the river Dhansiri in the vicinity of the district headquarters. "Gola" means market and "Ghat" means the port of river transport.
Inscription on rocks of Nagajari Khanikar village of Sarupathar, remnants of fortifications, brick structures, monuments, temples, tanks, etc. are evidence of a 9th-century kingdom in the Doyang-Dhansiri valley. The Ahoms were the rulers of the Doyang-Dhansiri valley in the 16th century. Earlier, this part was ruled by the Kacharis. The Kacharis were pushed back towards west of the Karbi Hills. The Ahom King appointed a ruler entitled 'Morongi-Khowa Gohain', an administrative post with the Rank of a Governor/Minister of the Ahom administration. Under Morongi-Khowa Gohain, large number of people from different parts of Ahom kingdom were settled in erstwhile Kachari Kingdom. An interesting aspect of such settlement was that a large number of people from different castes/communities were mixed up together so that there was remote chance of rebellion in such newly acquired territory. Most of the Morongi-Khowa Gohains were appointed from the Burhagohain families although there were few exceptions.
Later, when the British took control of Assam, the Doyang-Dhansiri valley was incorporated under the newly formed Golaghat subdivision of the Sibsagar district in 1846. Golaghat district played an active part in the freedom struggle of India. Kushal Konwar, Kamala Miri, Dwariki Das, Biju Vaishnav, Sankar Chandra Barua, Shri Tara Prasad Barooah, Rajendra Nath Barua, Gaurilal Jain, Ganga Ram Bormedhi and Dwarikanath Goswami are eminent freedom fighters of the region.
Golaghat was raised to the position of a district of Assam on 15 August 1987, when it was split from Sibsagar district.