RNA silencing was discovered in plants as a mechanism whereby invading nucleic acids, such as transgenes and viruses, are silenced through the action of small (20-26 nt) homologous RNA molecules. Our understanding of small RNA biology has significantly improved in recent years, and it is now clear that there are several cellular silencing pathways in addition to those involved in defense. Endogenous silencing pathways have important roles in gene regulation at the transcriptional, RNA stability and translational levels. They share a common core of small RNA generator and effector proteins with multiple paralogs in plant genomes, some of which have acquired highly specialized functions. Here, we review recent developments in the plant RNA silencing field that have identified components of specific silencing pathways and have shed light on the mechanisms and biological roles of RNA silencing in plants.