Fluorescence in situ hybridization analysis reveals that homologous chromosomes are paired in yeast cells about to enter meiosis. Pairing involves multiple interstitial interactions, one per approximately 65 kb. These observations exclude several classes of models for somatic/premeiotic pairing. The number of t = 0 pairing interactions is about the same as the number of subsequent meiotic recombination events. As cells enter meiosis, pairing disappears concomitant with DNA replication and then reappears, independent of synaptonemal complex. Mutant phenotypes suggest that formation of an individual meiotic pairing connection does not require a meiosis-specific double-stranded break (DSB). Mutants defective in recombination before or after DSBs exhibit pairing defects. These and other observations can be united by a model in which premeiotic pairing and early meiotic pairing occur by closely related paranemic DNA-DNA interactions between intact duplexes, with early meiotic interactions subsequently converted directly to plectonemic recombination intermediates via DSBs.