The Adilabad district was named after the ruler of Bijapur Sultanate, Ali Adil Shah. The district was for long not a homogeneous unit and its component parts were ruled at different periods by dynasties namely, the Mauryas, Staavahanas, Vakatakas, Chaludyas of Badami, Rashtrakututs, Chalukyas of Kalyani, Mughals, Bhosle Rajes of Nagpur and Asaf Jahis, besides the Gond Rajas of Sirpur and Chanda.
Originally this was a sub-district named Sirpur-Tandur which was created in A.D. 1872 with Edlabad (Adilabad), Rajura and Sirpur as its constituent talukas. In 1905, an independent district with headquarters at Adilabad was formed.
Adilabad is the second largest district in the Telangana Region.
The district is situated between 77.46' and 80.01', of the eastern longitudes and 18.40' and 19.56', of northern latitudes.
The district is situated on the northern boundary of Andhra Pradesh, forming a border with the Yeotmal and Chanda districts of Maharashtra on the north, east and western borders and Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts of Andhra Pradesh on the southern border.
The district occupies an area of 16,128 km² and is the fifth largest in Andhra Pradesh, occupying 5.90 percent of the area in Andhra Pradesh.
The Sahyadri parvat or Satnala range traverses the district from the north-west to the south-east for about 281.5 kilometers. In this range the Mahbubghat is the highest peak.
The most important river that drains the district is the River Godavari. The Penganga River, Wardha and Pranahita also drain the region. The Kadam and the Peddavagu are tributaries of the Godavari. There are also streams like Satnala, Swarnavagu, and Suddavagu which drain the district. The Godavari which is the largest river in peninsular India raises in the Western Ghats and enters this district near Basara in Mudhole Taluk. This mighty river forms the southern boundary of the district separating it from Nizamabad and Karimnagar districts. The Penganga forms part of the northern boundary of the district in Adilabad, while the Wardha and the Pranahita from the northern and eastern boundaries of the district.