The cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the initiation and progression of osteoarthritis (OA), and in particular cartilage degeneration in OA, are not completely understood. Increasing evidence implicates developmental processes in OA etiology and pathogenesis. Herein, we review this evidence. We first examine subtle changes in cartilage development and the specification and formation of joints, which predispose to OA development, and second, we review the switch from an articular to a hypertrophic chondrocyte phenotype that is thought to be part of the OA pathological process ultimately resulting in cartilage degeneration. The latest studies are summarized and we discuss the concepts emerging from these findings in cartilage biology, in the light of our understanding of the developmental processes involved.