Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) are key regulators of several developmental processes in which cell fate and differentiation to various tissue lineages are determined. The importance of the proper spatial and temporal regulation of FGF signals is evident from human and mouse genetic studies which show that mutations leading to the dysregulation of FGF signals cause a variety of developmental disorders including dominant skeletal diseases and cancer. The FGF ligands signal via a family of receptor tyrosine kinases and, depending on the cell type or stage of maturation, produce diverse biological responses that include proliferation, growth arrest, differentiation or apoptosis. A central issue in FGF biology is to understand how these diverse cellular responses are determined and how similar signaling inputs can generate distinct patterns of gene expression that govern the specificity of the cellular response. In this review we draw upon studies from the past fifteen years and attempt to construct a molecular picture of the different levels of regulation by which such specific cellular responses could be achieved by FGF signals. We discuss whether specificity could lie in the nature of the ligand, the particular receptor, the signal transduction pathways utilized, or the transcriptional regulation of specific genes. Finally, we also discuss how the interplay of FGF signals with other signaling systems could contribute to the cellular response. In particular we focus on the interaction with the Wnt pathway since FGF/Wnt cross-talk is emerging as an important nexus in regulating a variety of biological processes.