The concept of hebephrenia has undergone more changes than almost any other diagnostic category in clinical psychiatry. In the present article we want to outline these changes from Hecker's first description of hebephrenia to contemporary concepts mainly based on Bleuler's viewpoints. Due to rather heterogeneous and vaguely defined symptomatology, hebephrenia lost relevance as a diagnostic category in today's classification systems. As an alternative approach, Kleist and Leonhard see hebephrenias as forming distinct clinical entities with insidious beginning and a chronically progressive course leading to specific and stable residual syndromes, mainly featured by disturbed affectivity and, thus, initiative. As known up to now, hebephrenias within Leonhard's classification show poor prognosis, little response to treatment and low heredity. This concept of hebephrenia seems to be more appropriate to demarcate a homogeneous subtype which can be the subject of further promising research to clarify aetiology and nosology of schizophrenic spectrum psychoses.