Cerklje na Gorenjskem was attested in historical sources in 1147 as Sancta Maria (and as Ecclesia sancte Marie in Cirkelach in 1239 and Zirchlach in 1271). The name Cerklje is derived from the plural demonym*Cerkъvľane (< *cerьky 'church'), meaning 'people living on church territory' or 'residents of the village with the church'. In the distant past, the settlement was also known as Trnovlje in Slovene (attested as in Tirnovlach in 1239), from the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Thorn (Slovene: Marija v Trnju). The name of the settlement was changed from Cerklje to Cerklje na Gorenjskem in 1952. In the past the German name was Zirklach.