This review is dedicated to E-cadherin, a calcium-dependent cell-cell adhesion molecule with pivotal roles in epithelial cell behavior, tissue formation, and suppression of cancer. As founder member of the cadherin superfamily, it has been extensively investigated. We summarize the structure and regulation of the E-cadherin gene and transcript. Models for E-cadherin-catenin complexes and cell junctions are presented. The structure of the E-cadherin protein is discussed in view of the diverse functions of this remarkable protein. Homophilic and heterophilic adhesion are compared, including the role of E-cadherin as a receptor for pathogens. The complex post-translational processing of E-cadherin is reviewed, as well as the many signaling activities. The role of E-cadherin in embryonic development and morphogenesis is discussed for several animal models. Finally, we review the multiple mechanisms that disrupt E-cadherin function in cancer: inactivating somatic and germline mutations, epigenetic silencing by DNA methylation and epithelial to mesenchymal transition-inducing transcription factors, and dysregulated protein processing.