Maldivian writing has gone through three distinct stages, culminating in the development of the current script in the 16th century. The earliest examples of written Maldivian are written in Evēlā Akuru, 'ancient letters', which later developed into the script known as Dhives Akuru, 'island letters'. Both of these early scripts were written from left to right, having derived from the Brahmi script. The current script, Thaana, was originally used as a secret script alongside Dhives Akuru by Muslim sorcerers for writing spells and incantations. It was written from right to left, presumably under the influence of Arabic speakers with whom the Maldivian people traded.

Thaana grew in popularity under the rule of Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu who is credited with emancipating the country from Portuguese rule in 1573. Its rise in popularity is linked with a nationalistic reform movement aimed at ensuring that the country was not subject to foreign occupation again. Since that time it has been the predominant script in use in the Maldives, aside from a brief period in the 1970s when President Ibrahim Nasir implemented an official Latin transcription system to facilitate printing, and all official documents were printed using that system. Nasir's successor, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom reinstated the Thaana script in 1978 and literacy in the script is now above 95%.