Although the multifactorial nature of osteoarthritis (OA) is well recognized, genetic factors have been found to be strong determinants of the disease. Evidence of a genetic influence of OA comes from a number of sources, including epidemiological studies of family history and family clustering, twin studies, and exploration of rare genetic disorders. Classic twin studies have shown that the influence of genetic factors is between 39% and 65% in radiographic OA of the hand and knee in women, about 60% in OA of the hip, and about 70% in OA of the spine. Taken together, these estimates suggest a heritability of OA of 50% or more, indicating that half the variation in susceptibility to disease in the population is explained by genetic factors. Studies have implicated linkages to OA on chromosomes 2q, 9q, 11q, and 16p, among others. Genes implicated in association studies include VDR, AGC1, IGF-1, ER alpha, TGF beta, CRTM (cartilage matrix protein), CRTL (cartilage link protein), and collagen II, IX, and XI. Genes may operate differently in the two sexes, at different body sites, and on different disease features within body sites. OA is a complex disease, and understanding its complexity should help us find the genes and new pathways and drug targets.