The area around Tambellup was settled by pastoralists in the late 1840s. In 1849, Surveyor General John Septimus Roe passed through the area, referring to Morrison’s south-west station at “Tambul-yillup”. Later, the area was settled by the Norrish family. The spelling commonly used for the place then was “Tambellelup”. The Great Southern Railway opened in 1889 and a station was established at Tambellup. It appears that the shortened version of the name was created by the railway, as the timetable in 1889 uses the Tambellup spelling. Tambellup was gazetted as a town site in 1899.
The meaning of this Aboriginal name is not known. One source describes it as “place of thunder”. Another explanation is that Tambellup means “place of Tammars”. Tammar being the Aboriginal word for a marsupial that used to frequent the area.