Piñan came from a subano term “pinyayan” which means “tabuan” or a trading place. Before it was established as a formal settlement, this place has been a trading point between natives area and ambulant peddlers. Hence, sometime in 1903, Captain Finley, a military governor in Zamboanga established a “tabuan” in what is now known as Barangay Del Pilar. The “tabuan” became what is known to be Piñan and when the municipality was created, it was called New Piñan to vary it from Piñan.

From the time of its foundation, The name of the municipality of New Piñan was later changed to Piñan under Republic Act No. 2846 on June 19, 1960.

The inhabitants of Piñan were engaged in farming, they cultivated their field by using “kaingin” system in which the land was cleared by setting fire to the woody plant and bushes, after which, holes were bored in the ground with a pointed sticks and the seeds were then planted there. They also used wooded plows and harrows drawn by Carabao’s . Then, finally, Piñan became the source of farm production using their famous horses or cattle driven caretela, until most of the time, people from neighboring municipalities go to Piñan to purchase agricultural products, in which then, they established a so called “tabuan”.

Other version states that Piñan got its name from the native word “piña”, a pineapple fruit that grows abundantly in this locality before its creation. Vast tracts of pineapple plantations can be seen all over the area. Because of abundance of Piña fruits, natives called the place Piñan.

Piñan acquired its juridical personality on August 22, 1951 by virtue of Executive Order No. 457 by his Excellency, President of the Philippines, Elpedio Quirino, and an act creating the municipality of Piñan, from the municipality of Dipolog.

Piñan became a municipality on December 8, 1951 at 2:35 p.m. and was inaugurated through the painstaking effort of Hon. Serapio J. Datoc, who was at the time, the Provincial Governor of the province of Zamboanga (now province of Zamboanga del Norte) and declared as an independent municipality separate from its mother municipality of Dipolog.