Contemporary Elazığ was initially an extension to the historic city of Harput, anciently known as Arsamosata, which was situated on a hill and difficult to access in winter. Under the reign of Mahmud II, the governor Reşid Mehmed Pasha started the expansion of Mezre, which lay on the plains a short distance from Harput. During the reign of Sultan Abdülazîz, military barracks, a hospital and a governor's mansion were built to accommodate the seat of a new vilâyet (province).
The city was named "Mamûret'ül-Azîz" (معمورة العزيز, made prosperous by Aziz in Ottoman Turkish) in 1866 on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of enthronement of the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz although he was not the initial founder. The city was known many years as "Elâzîz" due to its ease of pronunciation until November 17, 1937, when President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk changed the name of the city to "Elazık" (the city of food). However, since it was hard to pronounce this word in Turkish, on December 10, 1937 the government changed the city's name to its final form, "Elazığ".