Before Östersund was established the population in the area was very scarce. In Odensala and Torvalla older settlements existed, the name Odensala can be derived from the Viking age and the Halls of Odin (though Torvalla means "dry wealds" with no reference to Thor). These two villages were later incorporated into Östersund and are today two major urban districts. Besides them the urban districts of Odenskog, Odensvik, Odenslund, Karlslund, Erikslund, Lugnvik, Lillänge and Söder along with the new district Stadsdel Norr are found on the mainland. On Frösön, recently included into the city are the three urban districts Hornsberg, Mjälle and Valla.
The central parts of Östersund are a part of the urban district Staden — "the city", which has become synonymous with Östersund for many people living in the nearby villages and towns. As Östersund is the only city in the area and nearest city for many it is common to call it Stan, though the dative form Staa has increasingly grown unusual. The residents of Östersunds are referred to as östersundare, though local ruralists call them stassbon "towners", and stassbo "towner", in singular.