The long bones of the vertebrate appendicular skeleton arise from initially continuous condensations of mesenchymal cells that subsequently segment and cavitate to form discrete elements separated by synovial joints. Little is known, however, about the molecular mechanisms of joint formation. We present evidence that Wnt-14 plays a central role in initiating synovial joint formation in the chick limb. Wnt-14 is expressed in joint-forming regions prior to the segmentation of the cartilage elements, and local misexpression of Wnt-14 induces morphological and molecular changes characteristic of the first steps of joint formation. Induction of an ectopic joint-like region by Wnt-14 suppresses the formation of the immediately adjacent endogenous joint, potentially providing insight into the spacing of joints.