The name Urartu (Armenian: Ուրարտու; Assyrian: māt Urarṭu; Babylonian: Urashtu; Hebrew: אֲרָרָט Ararat) comes from Assyrian sources. Shalmaneser I (1263–1234 BC) recorded a campaign in which he subdued the entire territory of "Uruatri". The Shalmaneser text uses the name Urartu to refer to a geographical region, not a kingdom, and names eight "lands" contained within Urartu (which at the time of the campaign were still disunited). "Urartu" is cognate with the Biblical "Ararat", Akkadian "Urashtu", and Armenian "Ayrarat". In addition to referring to the famous Biblical highlands, Ararat also appears as the name of a kingdom in Jeremiah 51:27, mentioned together with Minni and Ashkenaz. Mount Ararat is located approximately 120 kilometres (75 mi) north of its former capital.
The name Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili; Armenian: Վանի թագավորություն, translit. Vani t′agavorut′yun), is derived from the Urartian toponym Biainili (or Biaineli), which was adopted in Old Armenian as Van (Armenian: Վան), because of betacism (in linguistics, when the letters b and v undergo a sound change), hence the names "Kingdom of Van" or "Vannic Kingdom". Other Urartian toponyms and words went through the same sound change as the Armenian language spread throughout the region and absorbed them (see Erebuni and Erevan).
In the 6th century BC, with the emergence of Armenia in the region, the name of the region was simultaneously referred to as variations of Armenia and Urartu. In the trilingual Behistun Inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius I, the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in the Elamite language.
The mentions of Urartu in the Books of Kings and Isaiah of the Bible were translated as "Armenia" in the Septuagint. Some English language translations, including the King James Version follow the Septuagint translation of Urartu as Armenia. The identification of the biblical "mountains of Ararat" with the Mt. Ararat (Turkish: Ağrı Dağı) is a modern identification based on postbiblical tradition.
Some scholars have speculated that Ovid may have read the Pentateuch due to his use of the word ararat in the Metamorphoses flood narrative, which describes humanity's suffering the consequences of angering the Roman god Jupiter.
Scholars such as Carl Ferdinand Friedrich Lehmann-Haupt (1910) believed that the people of Urartu called themselves Khaldini after the god Ḫaldi. Boris Piotrovsky wrote that the Urartians first appear in history in the 13th century BC as a league of tribes or countries which did not yet constitute a unitary state. In the Assyrian annals the term Uruatri (Urartu) as a name for this league was superseded during a considerable period of years by the term "land of Nairi".
Shupria (Akkadian: Armani-Subartu from the 3rd millennium BC) was part of the Urartu confederation. Later, there is reference to a district in the area called Arme or Urme, which some scholars have linked to the name of Armenia.
The biblical hare Ararat (mountains of Ararat) is called bet Kardu (house of Kardu or Kurdistan) in Aramaic. It was called ture-Kardu (mountains of Kardu) in the Targum Onkelos, and there are several references to Kardu in the Talmud.