The name has evolved from the Saxon "Hoding," meaning "settlement on the hill". Houdan is thought to have been inhabited since the 5th century. By the 12th century, two churches and a chateau were present.
During the Hundred Years' War, the town changed hands and was pillaged frequently. The town was destroyed; only the 12th century keep survives from that period. After the war, the town was ruled by the English until 1475.
Houdan is mentioned in the Prophecies of Nostradamus.
Houdan was a staging post on the road from Paris to Brittany, and many old inns are still standing.
Houdan was also an important poultry market for Paris and a breed is named after the town. The breed is ornamental, but is also used for its meat and white eggs.