According to the historian Radharaman Saha, Pabna is named after Paboni, a branch of the Ganges.
Archeologist Cunningham wrote that the name came from "POTH", a totem folk who lived long ago in this region (Poundrabardhan). A survey map from 1850 depicts a Mouza (medium size village) named Padeh Pabna in the Nazirpur Pargana (pargana can be considered as a cluster of villages)
Haraprasad Shastri, the author and historian regarded the name Pabna as originating from Podubomba, a small feudal kingdom, which was established by a king named Shom, during the Pal Dynasty period.
Historian Durgadas Lahiri, in his book Prithibir Itihash, used a map from the ancient period where a village named Pabna can be seen.
A legend: There was a robber (like Robin Hood) named Pobana who lived here long ago. He became a legendary hero for his good deeds. People honoured him by giving the name of his river Pabna.
Most probably, the name comes from the Persian word "PANMBAH", which means cotton. At one time, a number of inhabitants here were weavers.
Pabna Municipality comprises a mayor and 15 councillors and 5 female councillors. Each councillor represents a ward of the town. All of them are elected by people's vote.
Dhaka is about five hours by road, through the Jamuna Bridge. Cities and towns of Dhaka Division, Chittagong Division and Sylhet Division are also connected though it. Kushtia District and other parts of Khulna Division and Barisal Division is connected through Lalon Shah Bridge. River crossing (ferry ghaat) at Nogorbari on the Jamuna River is the old route to Dhaka and the eastern part of Bangladesh. It requires three to four hours to cross only the Jamuna from Nogobari to Aaricha river port in Manikgonj District. Najirgonj river crossing on the Padma River connects Pabna city with neighbouring Rajbari District as well as Faridpur, Madaripur, Shariatpur and Gopalganj Districts, and Barisal Division.
Pabna is also well connected to all the districts and towns of Rajshahi Division by road.
Pabna city has no rail network. Nearby railway stations are situated at Iswardi and Chatmohar Upazila. The nearby airport is at Ishwardi Upazila. Biman Bangladesh Airlines used to operate twice-weekly services to Ishwardi from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, Dhaka. However, no airlines are operating to and from Ishwardi at the moment.
Several Dhaka bound private bus services are available such as Pabna Express, Shyamoli, Sarkar Travels, Raja Badsha, Badol, Mohanagar, C-line, Arif, Ishurdi Express, Night Star, Kings, Esha, Capital Service, Al-Hamra,Silver Line etc. Government owned Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) provides bus services to Rajshahi and Bogra city.
Water transport is important, as the Padma and other rivers, and Chalan Beel wetland are situated in Pabna. In Pabna district rides by Nosimon, rickshaw-van and Korimon are pleasure worthy.
Pabna has fledgeling knitted fabric and handloom related textile industries. There are also several consumer and pharmaceutical producing factories. Square (Bangladesh) is the largest pharmaceutical company in Bangladesh. Majority of its factories are situated near Jubilee Tank area of the town.
Educational institutions include the Pabna University of Science and Technology, Pabna Zilla School, Pabna Cadet College, pabna Polytechnic Institute, Govt. Edward College, Pabna, Govt. Shaheed Bulbul College, Government Women's College, Pabna, Imam Ghazzali School and College, Pabna Government Girls' School, Pabna Central Girls' School. In 2008, Pabna University of Science and Technology has been established in Pabna. Pabna Medical College has also re-opened. A laboratory high school and a collegeate school is under construction. There is also a textile engineering college in Pabna.
Pabna has the largest mental hospital in Bangladesh. It also has a big general hospital, and numerous medical centres and small private clinics. Pabna Medical College and Hospital is under construction.
In healthcare, Pabna Community Clinic, a division of Dhaka Community Clinic, established and led by Prof. Dr. Quazi Qumruzzaman, has made a great contribution in development and mitigation of arsenicosis. There is a general hospital and a mental hospital at Pabna. The nine Upazilas under Pabna District holds an upazila health complex each. Government doctors get appointment through Bangladesh Civil Service commission.
250-bed government owned general hospital is situated at Shaalgaariya, and a 450-bed mental hospital is at Hemayetpur. Recently government owned Pabna Medical College has been set up near the mental hospital, Pabna premise.
There is a mosque at Chatmohar Upzilla named Shahi Mosque which built by Masum Khan kabuli at 15th century. There is a rumour about this mosque that the mosque built in one night. The remains of Hindu temple Jor Bangla (recently renovated) is situated in Jor Baangla Paara of the town. Jagannath Temple at Chatmohar Upazila is considered one of the most beautiful Hindu temples in Northern Bangladesh. A Mughal-era mosque Varara Moshjid (Bengali: ভাঁড়াড়া মসজিদ) is situated some 10 km south-east of the town. Also people are famous for their hospitability.
Rassundari Devi, a Bengali writer who is identified as the author of first full-fledged autobiography in modern Bengali literature, was born in Pabna in 1809 or 1810. iAir Vice Marshal (Rtd.) A. K. Khandker, first Chief of Staff of Bangladesh Air Force (1971–1975), Former Minister, Ministry Planning of People's Republic of Bangladesh
Mirza Abdul Halim State Minister, Ministry of Shipping
Mirza Abdul Awal Founded Chairman Pabna District BNP
Amulya Kumar Saha (1913- ) Orthopedic surgeon and past president of Indian Orthopedic Association was born in pabna
Amiya Bhushan Majumdar, Indian novelist
Amjad Hossain, MNA (Member of National Assembly of Pakistan), organiser of Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971.
Bonde Ali Miah, poet
Group Captain (Rtd.) Saiful Azam, former Pilot a war hero of 1965 Indo-Pakistani War and 1967 Arab-Israeli War (Six-Day War).
General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri OBE, former Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.
Pramatha Chaudhuri, writer.
Samson H. Chowdhury, businessman, former chairman of Square Group.
Suchitra Sen, actress of Kolkata film industry in the 1950s through 70s.
Thakur Anukulchandra, guru, physician and founder of Satsang Ashram.
Mohammed Fazle Rabbee, Cardiologist, Intellectual, murdered in the intellectual killing during the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh by Pakistani army and its local collaborators, the Jamaat-affiliate
Mirza Azizul Islam advisor of Bangladesh caretaker government