Jiangyin's name means "River Shade", from its location on the south or shady side of the Yangtze River.
Jiangyin was a township of Yanling (later Piling) county initially. Since the township was located in the north of Ji Lake, it was given the name "Jiyang". In 281, it was promoted as a county of Piling commandery. In 558, Jiangyin commandery whose jurisdiction equating to the modern city's was established.
In 1472, the sandbank in the Yangtze River was independent from the county to establish Jingjiang county.
In 1645, the draconian enforcement of the decree which adopting the Manchu hair style and dress inflamed the local Han Chinese people's spirit to resist. Since the ultimatum "either lose your hair or lose your head" was given, they hold the walled city against Qing sieges under a magistrate Yan Yingyuan's leadership. The resistance lasted 81 days. After the city was captured, the Qing army massacred the citizens to vented their anger: there were about 67,000 deaths in the city, and also about 75,000 deaths out of the city.
On 23 April 1987, Jiangyin was approved by the State Council of China to turn into a county-level city.
Jiangyin Train Ferry Line is the only one remains across the Yangtze River, it is a part of the Xinyi–Changxing Railway.