Although the modern era of what we now call the 'metabolic syndrome' or the 'insulin resistance syndrome' seems to have started less than two decades ago with the description of syndrome X by G.M. Reaven in the late 1980s, the history of this syndrome is much longer. In particular, a considerable number of scientists, starting as early as almost 90 years ago, have described the very common coexistence of the various components of the syndrome, including hypertension, and some of them gave several names to this clustering. On the other hand, during the past few years several international organizations have tried to form a reference context of what is included under the terms 'metabolic syndrome' and 'insulin resistance syndrome', proposing various 'definitions' for them. This review summarizes the history of the syndrome, from the early descriptions and other valuable contributions to the recent attempts to define it, as a small piece in honour of the pioneer workers in this field during the twentieth century.