To elucidate the molecular pathogenesis of diseases has become a crucial step in the development of new treatment strategies. Although the pathogenesis of cerebral aneurysms has been studied intensively, it is poorly understood. Endogenous factors like elevated arterial blood pressure, the special anatomy of the Circle of Willis or the effect of haemodynamic factors, particularly originating at vessel bifurcation, are all known to be involved in the growth and rupture of an aneurysm. There is an ongoing discussion as to whether these factors also contribute to the very early steps of pathogenesis. Arteriosclerosis and secondary inflammatory reactions are thought to be elementary preconditions. Exogenous factors like cigarette smoking, heavy alcohol consumption or certain medications known to help generate arteriosclerosis and elevated blood pressure have also been found to be related to the occurrence of cerebral aneurysms. Furthermore, there has been a long-lasting debate on whether aneurysms might develop as a result of an inborn genetic defect. First-degree relatives of patients with cerebral aneurysms have a higher risk of having an aneurysm. In addition, the elevated prevalence of cerebral aneurysms in patients suffering from various inherited diseases points to a genetic background in the development of an aneurysm. Recent advances in molecular biology provide evidence that genetic variants of different candidate genes are associated with the occurrence of cerebral aneurysms. The aim of this review is to expose the current status of these various hypotheses and their contribution to the pathogenesis of cerebral aneurysms in order to provide a basis for future investigations in this field.