The name comes from Orléans, its main city and traditional capital. The province was one of those into which France was divided before the French Revolution. It was the country around Orléans, the pagus Aurelianensis; it lay on both banks of the Loire, and for ecclesiastical purposes formed the diocese of Orléans. It was in the possession of the Capet family before the advent of Hugh Capet to the throne of France in 987, and in 1344 Philip VI gave it with the title of duke to Philip of Valois (d. 1375), one of his younger sons. In a geographical sense the region around Orléans is sometimes known as the Orléanais, but this is somewhat smaller than the former province.
Orléanais was also a dialect of the French language spoken in the province of Orléanais until the beginning of the 19th century.