Paderborn was part of the Bishopric of Paderborn until it was included into Prussia in 1802. After the Napoleonic wars when Prussia created the province Westphalia it also created five districts roughly covering the area of the previous state - Brakel, Büren, Höxter, Paderborn and Warburg. In 1975 Paderborn and Büren districts were merged to the current Paderborn district. At the same time the towns and municipalities in the district were merged to form the today's ten towns municipalities. It is a rural district with urban municipalities.
The red cross in chief of the coat of arms symbolizes the clerical state Paderborn, the historic precursor of today's district. The wave line below stands for the rivers in the district, especially the Lippe River. The symbol in the field derives from the Lords of Büren.