The village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Selungesbi in the Maneshou hundred. It was part of the Hovingham manor, but some land was owned by Orm, son of Gamul at the time of the Norman invasion. Afterwards land around the manor were split between Hugh, son of Baldric and Count Robert of Mortain. The manor passed to the Mowbray family until 1322, when John de Mowbray was beheaded for rising against the Crown. The Wyville family held land under the Mowbray's. The Hastings family held the manor until 1600 when it was purchased by Sir Charles Cavendish whose family held it for the next hundred years until they sold to the Duke of Buckingham. In 1751 the manor was sold to the fourth Earl of Carlisle, whose family hold the title to this day. The Mowbray's built a castle in the village, but this had fallen into disrepair by the time the Hastings built another in 1345. This was removed by the Cavendish's and rebuilt where the remains can still be seen today just off the High Street. They are a Grade II LIsted Building.
The village used to be stop on the Thirsk & Malton Railway. The station opened in June 1853 and closed to passengers in 1931 and freight in 1964.
The village lies west of Malton on the B1257 road to Hovingham, Helmsley and the North York Moors. The stretch of road from Malton to Hovingham, part of an old Roman road, is known locally as the Street with some of the neighbouring villages to the east having Street suffixed, such as Barton-le-Street and Appleton-le-Street.
The nearest settlements are the hamlets of Fryton to the west and South Holme to the north. The street village of Barton-le-Street is to the east. Wath Beck runs north east around the edge of the village on its way to join the nearby River Rye.
Slingsby lies at the foot of the gently sloping land which forms the northern edge of the Howardian Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), with the Vale of Pickering spreading out to its north and east.