In order to determine the actual spectrum of abnormal esophageal motility, manometric patterns in 1013 consecutive tracings were established using a classification method that employs esophageal body and lower esophageal sphincter (LES) characteristics. Peristaltic performance and contraction wave parameters were measured in the esophageal body; basal pressure and relaxation were included for the LES. Nine hundred thirty (92%) of the tracings could be completely classified, and 33 different patterns were observed (915 occurring at a rate greater than 1%). Abnormalities were most common in contraction wave parameters (661 tracings, 65%), and least common in LES relaxation (105 tracings, 10%). Patterns most typical of achalasia and diffuse esophageal spasm were found in 6.4% and 5.0% of tracings, respectively. Statistical analysis of the patterns demonstrated that significant bidirectional predictive associations between categories were restricted to features representing pathology-based motor disorders (ie, achalasia and "scleroderma-esophagus"). This systematic classification method is capable of recognizing and cataloging common findings of motor dysfunction in the esophageal body and LES as well as uncommon patterns representing traditional motility disorders. Our findings provide reference data for clinical esophageal manometry.