The name of the island comes from the Minoan Folégandro, meaning that there was Minoan presence on the island since about 1600 BC. Another explanation is that the name comes from the Phoenician ‘Phelekgundari’, which means 'dry place.' Yet another name of the island is Folékadros, which is referred to by Ptolemaios
The island was occupied by the Dorians who were followed by the Ionians, as witnessed by ancient ruins attributed to both of these tribes. Later on, the island was under the Athenian control (it paid taxes) and then under the Romans (under Tiberius) and finally under Venetians. A castle on the island bears witness to the occupation by the Venetians. The Russians held the island, from 1771 until 1774. Then it fell into the hands of the Turks, as the rest of the Cyclades, after it had been pillaged and massacred by pirates. In 1830 it was liberated by the Treaty of London. Until 1940, the island was used as an exile destination.