The name may suggest a farm or enclosure, though Coates suggests a derivation from the Old English 'cinu' which means a 'ravine or rift', which may refer to the way that the Basingstoke-Reading railway line passes between low hills in the vicinity, and implying that Chineham means 'rift estate'.
Predating the manor but within the current parish, an Iron Age settlement has been excavated recently in Great Binfield Copse. The Agger of the Roman road from Silchester to Chichester uncovered during the laying of an electricity pipeline in 2002 and evidence of a Roman enclosure and metal working site found in Daneshill during the 1980s. Binfields Farm, now the site of Chineham District Centre, was first documented in 945 as Becmnit Felda (open land with bent grass).
By 1848, Chineham had developed into a tiny hamlet with 34 inhabitants,. In the same year, the Berks and Hants Railway was opened, crossing the Basingstoke to Reading road nearby. By the 1960s there were about seventy dwellings, mostly along the road from Basingstoke to Reading, with a small wooden Church, a village shop, a petrol station, a small village hall, and a Toll House at the Reading end of the village.
Since the late-1970s, Chineham has developed into a sizeable residential suburb, and a bypass was constructed on the main A33 road so that the growing traffic flow was moved away from the housing areas. The railway has survived and prospered, as an increasingly important link between the port of Southampton and northern England. However, no passenger station has ever been built in Chineham, despite several recent attempts to promote one.
Chineham District Centre is effectively the town centre with a wide array of high street retail outlets (including a Tesco superstore and outlets of Next and Matalan) and a public library. There is also a large, modern business park called Chineham Park, which incorporates the Hampshire International Business Park, harbouring many offices of national and international organisations. Today Chineham it is continuous with the Basingstoke urban area and is generally considered as one of the town's outer suburbs, though many residents perceive Chineham more of a small satellite town/large commuter village.
In 2007, John Darwin was arrested in a house in Chineham, which was the home of one of his sons.
Chineham today is predominantly a residential area with good road links to Basingstoke, Reading and the M3 motorway. The area is well served with local amenities, including: