The vastly enhanced spatial resolution of high-resolution manometry (HRM) makes it possible to simultaneous monitor contractile activity over the entire length of the esophagus. The aim of this investigation was to define the essential features of esophageal peristalsis in novel HRM paradigms and establish their normative values. Ten 5-ml water swallows were recorded in each of 75 asymptomatic controls with a solid-state manometric assembly incorporating 36 circumferential sensors spaced at 1-cm intervals positioned to record from the hypopharynx to the stomach. The data set was then subjected to intensive computational analysis to distill out the essential characteristics of normal peristalsis. Esophageal peristalsis was conceptualized in terms of a proximal contraction, a distal contraction, and a transition zone separating the two. Each contractile segment was quantified in length and then normalized among subjects to summarize focal fluctuation of contractile amplitude and propagation velocity. Furthermore, the temporal and spatial characteristics of the transition zone separating the proximal and distal contraction were quantified. For each paradigm, graphics were developed, establishing median values along with the 5th to 95th percentile range of observed variation. In addition, the synchronization between peristalsis and esophagogastric junction relaxation was analyzed using a novel concept of the outflow permissive pressure gradient. We performed a detailed analysis of esophageal peristalsis aimed at quantifying its essential features and, in so doing, devised new paradigms for the quantification of peristaltic function that will hopefully optimize the utility of HRM in clinical and investigative studies.