Folk etymology claims that "Murgap" comes from the Turkmen root words mur - "water" as in yagmur/yagmyr, literally translated as "drops of water" or "raindrops", plus gap, a dish or box, denoting the land as a place with water. However, Atanyyazow explains that the name is of Persian, not Turkic, origin; it was in earlier times Margab, and that later, as a result of folk ethnology, the first syllable's a sound was replaced by a u, making murg ab, "bird water". Atanyyazow notes as well that Hafiz-i-Abru recorded in the 15th century that the name was originally Merab, "River of Merv", and that al-Istakhri wrote, "...this river was named after the place where it flowed," and thus ultimately comes from an ancient variant name of the city of Mary.
In 1973 there were 5,700 living in the town and today this has grown to around 10,000. In Soviet times there were asphalt and brick factories, and in 1974 the construction of a cotton processing plant.
- Atanyýazow, Soltanşa (1980). Түркменистаның Географик Атларының Дүшүндиришли Сөзлүги [Explanatory Dictionary of Geographic Names in Turkmenistan]. Ashgabat: Ылым. pp. 212–213.