The name Wayanad has been derived from the expression Vayal nadu - the village of paddy fields. In the ancient times this land was ruled by the Rajas of the Veda tribe. In later times, Wayanad came under the rule of Pazhassi Rajahs of Kottayam royal dynasty. When Hyder Ali became the ruler of Mysore , he invaded Wayanad and brought it under his way. In the days of Tipu, Wayanad was restored to the Kottayam royal dynasty.
But Tipu handled entire Malabar to the British after the Sreerangapatnam truce that he made with them. This was followed by fierce encounters between the British and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Rajah of Kottayam. Even when the Rajah was driven to the wilderness of Wayanad, he waged several battles with his Nair and Kurichia-Kuruma tribal soliders against the British troops and defeated the latter several times through guerilla type encounters. The British could get only the dead body of the Rajah who killed himself somewhere in the interior forest.
Thus Wayanad fell into the hands of British, and with it began a new turn in the history of this area. The Britishers opened up the Plateau for cultivation of tea and other cash crops. Roads were laid across the dangerous slopes of Wayanad from Calicut and Telicherry. These roads were extended to the city of Mysore and to Ooty through Gudalur. Road facilities provided opportunities for the people outside Wayanad to flow and settle in these jungle regions.
When the state of Kerala was formed in 1956, Wayanad was part of Kannur district. Later South Wayanad was added to Kozhikode district and then on November 1, 1980 North and South Wayanad joined together to form the present Wayanad district.