Factor XI deficiency is associated with a bleeding diathesis, but factor XII deficiency is not, indicating that, in normal hemostasis, factor XI must be activated in vivo by a protease other than factor XIIa. Several groups have identified thrombin as the most likely activator of factor XI, although this reaction is slow in solution. Although certain nonphysiologic anionic polymers and surfaces have been shown to enhance factor XI activation by thrombin, the physiologic cofactor for this reaction is uncertain. Activated platelets secrete the highly anionic polymer polyphosphate, and our previous studies have shown that polyphosphate has potent procoagulant activity. We now report that polyphosphate potently accelerates factor XI activation by α-thrombin, β-thrombin, and factor XIa and that these reactions are supported by polyphosphate polymers of the size secreted by activated human platelets. We therefore propose that polyphosphate is a natural cofactor for factor XI activation in plasma that may help explain the role of factor XI in hemostasis and thrombosis.