Glutamate is the most abundant free amino acid in the brain and is at the crossroad between multiple metabolic pathways. Considering this, it was a surprise to discover that glutamate has excitatory effects on nerve cells, and that it can excite cells to their death in a process now referred to as "excitotoxicity". This effect is due to glutamate receptors present on the surface of brain cells. Powerful uptake systems (glutamate transporters) prevent excessive activation of these receptors by continuously removing glutamate from the extracellular fluid in the brain. Further, the blood-brain barrier shields the brain from glutamate in the blood. The highest concentrations of glutamate are found in synaptic vesicles in nerve terminals from where it can be released by exocytosis. In fact, glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system. It took, however, a long time to realize that. The present review provides a brief historical description, gives a short overview of glutamate as a transmitter in the healthy brain, and comments on the so-called glutamate-glutamine cycle. The glutamate transporters responsible for the glutamate removal are described in some detail.