The incidence and presenting features of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) have changed significantly over the last century. Routine diagnostic techniques can now detect very low levels of CLL phenotype cells. Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL) is a relatively recent diagnostic category encapsulating individuals with an abnormal B-cell population but not meeting the diagnostic criteria for a B-cell malignancy. This review focuses on CLL-type MBL, which represents the majority of MBL cases identified in diagnostic laboratories. CLL-type MBL has a phenotype identical to CLL and shares the same chromosomal abnormalities even at the lowest levels detectable. Recent evidence suggests that the immunoglobulin gene usage plays a key role in whether the abnormal cells will develop in significant numbers. In most cases, CLL-type MBL is a stable condition with only 1% per year among those presenting for clinical attention developing progressive disease requiring treatment, although suppressed immune function may have a more significant impact on outcome.