In 1921, the club was founded as Figueirense Foot-ball Club. The club is named Figueirense after the neighborhood where it is located, in Centro neighborhood).Figueirense means "from Figueira". Figueirense was one of the founders of the defunct Liga Catharinense de Desportos Terrestres, organized on April 12, 1923. In 1932 the team won their first state championship. From 1935 to 1937, Figueirense was three times in a row Catarinense champion. In 1939, Figueirense won again the state championship, that was end of the Golden Decade of the club.
In 1972, was the end of the 30-year state championship titleless period. In 1973, Figueirense was the first team of Santa Catarina state in Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. In 1974, the team won Campeonato Catarinense again.
In 1987, the club played at Campeonato Catarinense Second Division, and won the promotion to the First Division. In 1994, the 17-year state championship titleless period ended. In 1995, Figeirense was Torneio Mercosul champion (not to be confused with Copa Mercosur) at Santa Catarina. It was the club's first (and only) international title.
In 2001, the club was Campeonato Brasileiro Second Division runner-up, and was promoted to the following year's First Division. From 2002 to 2004, Figueirense was three times in a row Campeonato Catarinense champion. In 2008, Figueirense won the Copa São Paulo de Juniores for the first time after beating Rio Branco-SP 2-0 in the final. In the 2008 edition of Serie A, Figueirense finished in 17th place, being relegated to Serie B the following year.
In 2002, Rivaldo's and César Sampaio's company, called CSR Esporte & Marketing, and Figueirense signed a partnership. The company was responsible for the administration of the professional football of Figueirense. The partnership ended in 2004.