The name Chennai came from the word Chennaipattinam, the name of the town that grew around the Fort St. George, which was built by the English in 1640. The first official use of the name Chennai is said to be in a sale deed, dated August 1639, to Francis day of the English East India Company. Chennai in Tamil means face, and the temple is regarded as the face of the city.The region around Chennai has served as an administrative, military, and economic centre since the 1st century.The area was ruled by various South Indian Dynasties notably the Pallava, the Chera, The Chola, The Pandya, and Vijaynagar.The Portuguese arrived in 1522 and built a port called Sao Tome after the christian apostle, St. Thomas, who is believed to have preached in the area between 1552 and 1570 AD. In 1612, the Dutch established themselves near Pulicat, just north of the City.
On 22nd August 1639, Francis Day of the British East India Company bought a small strip of land on the Coromandel coast. The region was ruled by the Nataka of Vandavasi. He granted British permission to build a factory and warehouse for their trading enterprises.A year later the British built Fort St. George and Madras was captured by the French under General La Bourdonnais, the Governor of Mauritius, who plundered the town and its outlying villages. the British gained control in 1749 through the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelleand fortified the town's fortress wall to withstand further attacks from the French and another looming threat , Hyder Ali, the Sultan of Mysore.By the late 18th century , the British had conquered most of the region around Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnatak , establishing the Madras Presidency with Madras as capital.