Although the Northern Kurdish dialect is spoken by the population, almost everyone in the city are able to speak in Arabic and Farsi languages.
Dohuk (Duhok of Dassini) means Yazidi village. Another theory is that the name comes from Taok (meaning grapevine in Kurdish) due to the fact that the region is very well known for vine trees. The Syriac name Bēṯ Nūhadrā translates to House/Land of the military leader. It refers to a small village nearby which is a district in the city due to the growth of the city during the last century. The name Nūhadrā continues to be used in reference to the city and is also a popular name among Assyrian women.
Throughout history to the present time, Duhok has acquired a strategic position historically and geographically. Between the 25th and 22nd century BC, it changed hands between the Akkadians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Amorites, Gutians, Hurrians and Hattians, before becoming an integral part of Assyria from the mid 21st century BC until the dissolution of Assyria (then known as Athura/Assuristan) in the mid 7th century AD after the Arab Islamic Conquest.
During the Assyrian period the town was named Nohadra (and also Bit Nuhadra or Naarda), where, during the Parthian-Sassanid rule in Assyria (c.160 BC to 250 AD) as Beth Nuhadra it gained semi-independence as one of a patchwork of Neo-Assyrian kingdoms in Assyria, which also included Adiabene, Osroene, Assur and Beth Garmai. During the Christian era became an eparchy within the Assyrian Church of the East metropolitanate of Ḥadyab (Erbil).
The city became prominent again in 1236, when Hasan Beg Saifadin joined the Kurdish Badinan principality. In 1842, the principality was dissolved by the Ottomans and connected to the city of Mosul.
In 1898 there were according to a report eleven small and private schools in the city, two Assyrian Christian and two Jewish schools. In 1920 there were in all of Iraq only five primary schools that were accessible for girls, and one of them was in Dohuk.
From 22 to 24 September 2005 Dohuk held a cultural festival that was for the first time in Dohuk to which Kurdish writers from all countries were invited.