The name 'Gladbeck' evolves from Low German, originally spoken in the area around Gladbeck. 'Glad' means smooth and 'beck' means brook. However, the brook Gladbeck flows under the ground nowadays. The districts of Gladbeck are Brauck, Butendorf, Ellinghorst, Mitte, Ost, Rentfort, Rosenhügel, Schultendorf and Zweckel.
Gladbeck is located in the northern part of the Ruhr Area and belongs to the so-called Emscherzone in which mining started late in relation to other towns of this area. Gladbeck is predominantly surrounded by Bottrop, Gelsenkirchen, Dorsten and by Essen in the south.