Under the rule of the Pandyan Dynasty, the district was known as Thenpandiyanadu. The Chola dynasty then named it Mudikonda Cholamandalam. The Madurai Nayaks called it Tirunelveli Seemai. Under the British East India Company, it was Tinnevelly district, which included the modern Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi districts and parts of the Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram districts.
In 1910, Ramanathapuram District was formed from portions of the Madurai and Tirunelveli Districts, which comprised portions of the modern Virudhunagar District.
After the Independence of India, Tirunelveli District was bifurcated on 20 October 1986 to Nellai-Kattabomman district (Tirunelveli) and Chidambaranar district (Tuticorin). Subsequently, the Government of Tamil Nadu decided to name each district according to the name of the headquarters town, so the region’s name changed from Tirunelveli – Kattabomman to Tirunelveli.