Balcatta's name was derived from the Aboriginal words "Bal" meaning "his" and "Katta" meaning "hill".
The area became popular with Southern European migrant families, since it was one of the few areas that had not been settled and many migrant families wanted to build their own homes in their distinctive style, many complete with plaster figurines of lions and romanesque style columns adorning the front verandah and entry. Similarly, other European immigrant families had already settled in nearby suburbs such as Osborne Park, who made their living as market gardeners.
The area was especially popular with Macedonian families, leading to the establishment of Macedonian Cultural Centre 'Ilinden' on Grindleford Place. Balcatta was also a popular area among other peoples from the Balkans.
As many of the older families pass on and others choose to update by building a newer home further north, the area is becoming increasingly popular with those of Asian cultural background, perhaps attracted by the central location of the suburb and generous block sizes, which has also led to some parts of Balcatta being subdivided into small units or villas.