The club, commonly known as Airdrie and nicknamed the Red Diamonds, began in 1878 as Excelsior F.C., but changed its name to Airdrieonians in 1881 to reflect the North Lanarkshire town of Airdrie in which it was based. They joined the Scottish League as a member of the Second Division and regularly moved between the top two flights.
Airdrie won the Second Division title three times, in 1903, 1955, and 1974, and also won the Scottish Challenge Cup three times, first in 1995, then in their last two seasons, 2001 and 2002. They also qualified for the European Cup Winners' Cup after finishing as runner-up to Rangers in the 1992 Scottish Cup Final. Their greatest success, however, was winning the Scottish Cup in 1924, beating Hibernian 2-0.
At the time they went out of business, Airdrie had just missed out on promotion to the Scottish Premier League, finishing in 2nd place of the then second-tier First Division. The club's debts had been steadily rising, however, and Airdrie had been in administration for the previous two years. By 1 May 2002, administrator KPMG had failed to find a buyer for the club and ordered it to shut its doors.
Their last match was away to Ayr United on 27 April 2002, but was abandoned by the referee when Airdrie supporters staged a protest pitch invasion, breaking the crossbar of one of the goals. The match was never replayed, but was officially recorded as a 1-0 loss for Airdrie.
In 2002, ardent Airdrie supporter Jim Ballantyne purchased Second Division side Clydebank F.C., relocated it to Airdrie, and renamed it Airdrie United. In 2013, the club took the name Airdrieonians.