Apocryphal stories of the Carthaginian Empire exploring the islands in approximately 200 BCE notwithstanding, the mainstream history of the Azores is linked to non-official exploration during the period of the late 13th century, resulting in maps, such as the Genoves Atlas Medici from 1351, mentioning obscure islands in an undefined Atlantic archipelago. The Medici Atlas refers to an Insula Corvi Marini (Island of the Marine Crow; Marine Crow is the literal translation of "Corvo Marinho", which is the Portuguese name for Cormorant), in a seven island archipelago, but it is improbable that it refers specifically to Corvo, although the island's name could have originated from this atlas. It is likely that the name referred to the two islands of Corvo and Flores, which also appeared on the later Aragonese Mapa Catalão of 1375.
The navigator Diogo de Teive discovered both islands of the Western Group on his 1452 return from the Banks of Newfoundland following his second voyage of exploration. Subsequently, the Portuguese Court when referring to the new Ilhas das Flores (Islands of Flowers) began to identify Corvo as Ilha de Santa Iria (Island of Saint Irene), but other nautical charts continued to refer to this island as Ilhéu das Flores (Islet of Flowers), Ilha da Estátua (Island of the Statute), Ilha do Farol (Island of the Lighthouse) or Ilha de São Tomás (Island of Saint Thomas). For a while it was also known as Ilha do Marco (Island of the Mark), which was attributed to its reference as a geographic marker for sailors, or, likely, the location of a small promontory where a marker was placed, which received the name Ponta do Marco.
Settlement of the island occurred unsuccessfully in the intervening years; it was not until 1580 when a permanent settlement became viable.
A religious parish of Corvo was finally constituted in 1674, and then on 20 June 1832, integrated into a functioning civilian administration.