The name comes from the German word "Burg" or "Burk" and gradually changed to "Burke", then "Burken" and finally to "Borken". Around the year 800 the village was being used by Charles The Great (Charlemagne) as a stopover place on his travels. In 1226 City rights were granted by BishopDietrich II of Isenberg-Limburg. Fortification of the city with walls and towers was first noted in 1391.
Near the end of World War Two the historic center of the city was heavily destroyed. After the war, community rearrangements followed in 1969, including annexation of Gemen and other towns in the vicinity. Between 1975 and 1978 came the cleaning up and rebuilding of the southern part of the old city. There, buildings which had outlasted the destruction of the Second World War were finally demolished. In 2001 Borken celebrated its 775th anniversary.