The aim of the DEWS Definition and Classification Subcommittee was to provide a contemporary definition of dry eye disease, supported within a comprehensive classification framework. A new definition of dry eye was developed to reflect current understanding of the disease, and the committee recommended a three-part classification system. The first part is etiopathogenic and illustrates the multiple causes of dry eye. The second is mechanistic and shows how each cause of dry eye may act through a common pathway. It is stressed that any form of dry eye can interact with and exacerbate other forms of dry eye, as part of a vicious circle. Finally, a scheme is presented, based on the severity of the dry eye disease, which is expected to provide a rational basis for therapy. These guidelines are not intended to override the clinical assessment and judgment of an expert clinician in individual cases, but they should prove helpful in the conduct of clinical practice and research.