Articular cartilage is a physiologically non-self-renewing avascular tissue with a singular cell type, the chondrocyte, which functions as the load-bearing surface of the arthrodial joint. Injury to cartilage often progresses spatiotemporally from the articular surface to the subchondral bone, leading to development of degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis (OA). Although lacking intrinsic reparative ability, articular cartilage has been shown to contain a population of stem cells or progenitor cells, similar to those found in many other adult tissues, that are thought to be involved in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. These so-called cartilage-derived stem/progenitor cells (CSPCs) have been observed in human, equine and bovine articular cartilage, and have been identified, isolated and characterized on the basis of expression of stem-cell-related surface markers, clonogenicity and multilineage differentiation ability. However, the origin and functions of CSPCs are incompletely understood. We review here the current status of CSPC research and discuss the possible origin of these cells, what role they might have in cartilage repair, and their therapeutic potential in OA.