It is predominantly a residential suburb, with three town centres: Church End (or Finchley Central), East Finchley and North Finchley. West Finchley is a smaller district. (All the areas have been redirected here.)
Finchley probably means "Finch's clearing" or "finches' clearing" in late Anglo-Saxon; the name was first recorded in the early 13th century. Finchley is not recorded in Domesday Book, but by the 11th century its lands were already held by the Bishop of London. In early medieval period the area was sparsely populated woodland.
Proper farming began in the 12th and 13th centuries and by the 15th and 16th centuries the woods on the eastern side of the parish had been cleared to form Finchley Common. The medieval Great North Road, which ran through the common, was notorious for highwaymen until the early 19th century.
The parish church of St Mary is first recorded in the 1270s. The settlement at Church End grew up around it. Near the northern gate to the Bishop of London's park, the hamlet of East End, later East Finchley, had begun to develop by 1365.
The Edgware, Highgate and London Railway (later the Great Northern Railway) reached Finchley in 1867. It ran from Finsbury Park via Finchley to Edgware. The branch from Finchley to High Barnet opened in 1872. In 1905 tram services were established in Finchley, and extended shortly afterwards to Barnet. They were eventually replaced by trolleybuses.
In 1933, the Underground New Works Programme, 1935-1940 to electrify the lines through Finchley, and connect the Northern line from Archway to East Finchley, via a new tunnel was announced. Much of the work was carried out and East Finchley station was rebuilt, but the project was halted by the second world war. All passenger services from Finchley to Edgware ended in September 1939. Nevertheless, Underground trains began running from central London to High Barnet in 1940, and to Mill Hill East, to reach the army barracks, in 1941.
After the war, the introduction of London's Metropolitan Green Belt undermined pre-war plans and the upgrading between Mill Hill East and Edgware (the 'Northern Heights' project) was abandoned, although the line continued to be used by steam trains for goods traffic through Finchley, until 1964.
Population figures for 2001 and 2011 have not been provided by Wikipedia.