The name Burnage is thought to have stemmed from "Brown Hedge", from the old brown stone walls or "hedges" which were common there in medieval times. In a survey of 1320, the district is referred to as "Bronadge.
The crest of the Mosley family, former Lords of the Manor of Withington, was adopted in the 20th century as the badge of Burnage High School. The old Withington Town Hall (1881) on Lapwing Lane, West Didsbury, bears a carved Mosley crest above its door.
During the Middle Ages, Burnage was common pasture and marsh land, shared between the farmers from the manors of Withington and Heaton Norris. As the population began to expand, the land was reclaimed for arable land. In a survey of 1322, the Lord of Manchester was permitted to appropriate more land for arable use, provided he left enough common pasture land for the "commoners" to graze their animals.
1906 saw plans to build a "garden suburb" in the district. Burnage Garden Village was created by building many new semi-detached houses as well as open recreational spaces, including lawns, gardens, a bowling green, tennis courts, allotments and a children's playground.
The 1920s saw the construction of Kingsway (the A34) and the building of the Kingsway housing estate and building has continued apace since then - only parts of Burnage Lane still survive as original weavers' cottages.
The writer Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy, spent most of her early childhood in Burnage. Actors David Threlfall and Max Beesley are from Burnage.
The district is notable for being the childhood home of Liam and Noel Gallagher, of the British rock band Oasis, who attended St. Bernard's RC Primary School on Burnage Lane. Lead singer and bassist of 60s and 70s pop band the Fortunes, Eddie Mooney has lived in Burnage for many years.