Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and the other low-grade non-Hodgkin lymphomas are among the most common lymphoid malignancies. Recent studies suggest that more than 4% of the general population over age 40 harbor a population of clonal B cells with the phenotype of either CLL or another B-cell malignancy, a condition now designated monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). Although all cases of CLL appear to be preceded by MBL, the majority of individuals with MBL will not develop a hematologic malignancy. The biologic characteristics and clinical implications of MBL appear to differ based on whether it is identified during the diagnostic evaluation of lymphocytosis or incidentally discovered through screening of individuals with normal lymphocyte counts as part of research studies using highly sensitive detection methods. In this paper, we provide a state of the art review on the prevalence, nomenclature, biology, natural history and clinical management of MBL.