Cartilage contains numerous noncollagenous proteins in its extracellular matrix, including proteoglycans. At least 40 such molecules have been identified, differing greatly in structure, distribution, and function. Some are present in only selected cartilages or cartilage zones, some vary in their presence with a person's development and age, and others are more universal in their expression. Some may not even be made by the chondrocytes, but may arise by absorption from the synovial fluid. In many cases, the molecules' function is unclear, but the importance of others is illustrated by their involvement in genetic disorders. This review provides a selective survey of these molecules and discusses their structure, function, and involvement in inherited and arthritic disorders.