The 20 or so galectins expected to be found in man, and their many possible functional effects promise a rich and fruitful research field in the future. At present, the biomedically most promising areas for use of galectins or their ligands are in inflammation, immunity, and cancer. Many good stories can be formulated, but the field lacks the cohesion of knowing basic galectin function. The only basic common denominators among galectins are beta-galactoside binding, and the unusual combination of intra- and extracellular expression with non-classical secretion in between. Maybe that is all there is, and nature has used these properties for multiple, otherwise unrelated functions. Then again, maybe there is some deeper common function that has so far been overlooked. If it exists, this probably lies somewhere in the detailed integration of galectin activity in the complexities of cell physiology.