The classification and nomenclature of retrotransposable elements is reviewed. A comparison is made between the initial classification summarized in Capy et al. (1997b), and the more recent proposal based on the classification of the viruses (Hull, 2001). Several problems, mainly relating to the position of elements belonging to the DIRS-like or Bel-like groups, are discussed. The first classification is now out of date, and must be revisited to take account of the discovery of new elements, however the second cannot be extended to the DNA elements. There is therefore, clear evidence of the need to adopt a general and a common classification.