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The encyclopedia talmudica quotes a Teshuvas Hageonim which says the reason it is called הפטרה because during the Krias Hatorah it is forbidden to talk, but when we read the haftorah we are "released" - פטר from the prohibition. Thus the reason for the name.


Wikipedia explains that the name comes from the fact that during the time when one was not allowed to read from the Torah they read the Haftora instead and thus were Patur from reading the Torah. מקור קריאת ההפטרה, מובא ב"אבודרהם" (בסדר שחרית של שבת, ובלבוש ובב"ח או"ח ס' רפ"ד וב"משנה ברורה" שם) שבאחת התקופות גזרו האויבים שאסור לקרוא בתורה. וכן היא ...


See the bottom of p. 3 – p. 4 of this article: Avudraha”m explains that it does come from the meaning “to exempt”. At the time when the Haftarah was first instituted (some theories state that it was in effect during the period of the first Temple), Jews were prohinited from reading the Torah. Thus, reading from the prophets exempted them from reading from ...

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