The written history of Urdaneta City remains far from conclusive and definitive to this day, with many versions of how the city officially became URDANETA. One theory suggests its original name is ORGANITA, roughly meaning "little organ or unit." This is plausible as it was then a composite of portions of barrios of the adjacent towns where they converged to create one composite pueblo. Some theorists, the so-called purists, belie this by saying that the Spanish root word is organo; therefore the right word should be organito. These theorists cite education at that time was centered in the Poblacion and the people in the hinterlands were neglected, thus resulting to bad grammar.
The written history of the town reveals that the community was organized into a pueblo on January 8, 1858. Its first "cura parroco" was Nicolas Alonzo Manrique. He named the new town Urdaneta, in honor of another friar, Fr. Andres de Urdaneta, the spiritual adviser of the expedition led by Miguel Lopez de Legaspi which arrived in Cebu to explore the country on April 27, 1565.
Other contentious issues, however, still exist. Was the town named after Fr. Andres Urdaneta or Fr. Miguel de Urdaneta or Fr. Simon de Urdaneta? The archives of the National Library state that it was after Fr. Miguel de Urdaneta. The historian Fr. Jose Ma. Gonzales, in his book "Labor Evangelica y Civilizadora de los Religioso Dominicos en Pangasinan", was silent on this. Some articles on the town’s history say that it was after Fr. Simon de Urdaneta while others claim it was after Fr. Andres de Urdaneta.
Historical records show the first inhabitants, mostly Ilocano migrants, established contiguous settlements occupying portions of the barrios of the surrounding towns of Asingan, Villasis, Malasiqui, Sta. Barbara, Mangaldan, Manaoag, and Binalonan. The settlers banded together and petitioned the Spanish Government to allow them to form a separate pueblo for greater ties and stronger unity. Their petition was granted and Urdaneta was formally founded on January 8, 1858. On January 10, 1998, the Philippine Congress enacted R.A. 8480 converting the Municipality of Urdaneta into a component city of the Province of Pangasinan. The people of Urdaneta, in a plebiscite, overwhelmingly ratified this legislative act and Urdaneta was proclaimed a city on March 21, 1998.