Since the original description by Taylor, the term focal cortical dysplasia has been used to refer to a wide range of alterations of the cortical mantle. More recently, these conditions have been described from neuroimaging, neuropathological and genetic standpoints, generating several classifications. It is widely recognized that these classifications are unsatisfactory. We propose a simplified classification of focal cortical dysplasias based on easily recognized neuropathological characteristics. We retrospectively re-examined histological sections of cortex from 52 of 224 (23%) patients operated on for drug-resistant partial epilepsy in which cortical dysplasia was present but not associated with other brain pathologies except hippocampal sclerosis. Three subgroups were identified: (i) architectural dysplasia (31 patients) characterized by abnormal cortical lamination and ectopic neurones in white matter; (ii) cytoarchitectural dysplasia (six patients) characterized by giant neurofilament-enriched neurones in addition to altered cortical lamination; and (iii) Taylor-type cortical dysplasia (15 patients) with giant dysmorphic neurones and balloon cells (all but two patients) associated with cortical laminar disruption. The patients with architectural dysplasia had lower seizure frequency than those with cytoarchitectural and Taylor-type dysplasia, and the epileptogenic zone was mainly in the temporal lobe. In patients with Taylor-type dysplasia, the epileptogenic zone was mainly extratemporal, and interictal stereo-EEG was distinctive. MRI was unrevealing in 34% of patients, but distinctive signal alterations characterized most patients with Taylor-type dysplasia, while focal hypoplasia with MRI abnormalities was found in architectural dysplasia. Patients with Taylor-type dysplasia had the best outcome, with 75% seizure-free (Engel class Ia) after at least a year of follow-up compared with 50% of cytoarchitectural dysplasia and 43% of architectural dysplasia patients seizure-free. This three-category classification is based on easily recognized histopathological characteristics and avoids complicated terminology, while the distinctive ensemble of other characteristics defines clinically homogeneous groups.