Introgression is a potential source of beneficial genetic diversity. The contribution of introgression to adaptive evolution and improvement of wheat as it was disseminated worldwide remains unknown. We used targeted re-sequencing of 890 diverse accessions of hexaploid and tetraploid wheat to identify wild-relative introgression. Introgression, and selection for improvement and environmental adaptation, each reduced deleterious allele burden. Introgression increased diversity genome wide and in regions harboring major agronomic genes, and contributed alleles explaining a substantial proportion of phenotypic variation. These results suggest that historic gene flow from wild relatives made a substantial contribution to the adaptive diversity of modern bread wheat.