Raman spectra of nine anomerically stable monosaccharides have been obtained in aqueous solution in the 700-1700 cm(-1) spectral range. Good-quality spectra are obtained of solutions with concentrations as low as 10 mM and volumes as small as 15 microL. Interestingly, the Raman spectra appear to be exquisitely sensitive to the configuration of the carbon centers; unique spectra are obtained of all nine monosaccharides. The unique Raman spectral fingerprint observed for each monosaccharide, and for each anomer of each monosaccharide, suggests that Raman spectroscopy may be a useful technique for the identification and characterization of biologically relevant oligosaccharides. To test this idea, Raman spectra of three unknown disaccharides were obtained in a single-blind study. Identification of the individual monosaccharide components and their anomeric configuration was completely successful. All of these results suggest that development of Raman spectroscopy as a fast, sensitive discovery tool in glycobiology and carbohydrate chemistry is straightforward.