The significance of deja vu is widely recognised in the context of temporal lobe epilepsy, and enquiry about deja vu is frequently made in the clinical assessment of patients with possible epilepsy. Deja vu has also been associated with several psychiatric disorders. The historical context of current understanding of deja vu is discussed. The literature reveals deja vu to be a common phenomenon consistent with normality. Several authors have suggested the existence of a "pathological" form of deja vu that differs, qualitatively or quantitatively, from "non-pathological" deja vu. The features of deja vu suggesting neurological or psychiatric pathology are discussed. Several neuroanatomical and psychological models of the deja vu experience are highlighted, implicating the perceptual, mnemonic and affective regions of the lateral temporal cortex, hippocampus and amygdala in the genesis of deja vu. A possible genetic basis for a neurochemical model of deja vu is discussed. Clinical approaches to the patient presenting with possible deja vu are proposed.