The word Dharwad means a small place. This district was ruled by various dynasties from the 5th century onwards. Important among them are Badami and Kalyan Chalukyas, Rastrakutas, Vijayanagar, Adilshahi, Mysore kingdom and Peshawas of Pune. Due to the rule of Peshwas, influence of Marathi is seen in the early decades of the 19th century. During the British rule, Dharwad became the divisional headquarter of educational administration and Kannada the vernacular language of the people gained prominence.
The major religions in the district are Hinduism, Islam, Jainism and Christianity. The majority of Hindus are found in both urban and rural areas. The population of the district is divided mainly into 3 categories, viz., main workers, marginal workers and non-workers. In the district, dry farming is the backbone of the agricultural economy.