The investigation of gammadelta T cells has identified a rapid lymphoid stress-surveillance response to microbial and nonmicrobial tissue perturbation. In addition to providing local protection, this response provides an immediate source of cytokines, chemokines, and other functions that can substantially affect downstream, adaptive immunity. Recent studies have identified striking mechanisms by which gammadelta cells meet the requirements of stress surveillance. For example, high response frequencies can reflect a unique nature of antigen engagement by the T cell receptor (TCR), developmental focusing of the repertoire by selection events, or the use of nonclonotypic receptors to initiate responses. Likewise, rapid functional deployment can be facilitated by the preprogramming of gammadelta cells during development. Additionally, gammadelta cells can directly influence adaptive immunity by functioning as antigen-presenting cells. With lymphoid stress surveillance likely to underpin numerous aspects of inflammation, tumor immunology, infectious disease, and autoimmunity, this perspective considers its properties and its emerging potential for clinical manipulation.