Thirty-four patients showing cystic intracranial mass lesions on MR imaging were evaluated by in vivo proton MR spectroscopy (MRS) with the aim of detecting lesion-specific spectral patterns that may assist imaging in better tissue characterization. In vivo spectroscopy was performed using stimulated echo acquisition mode with echo times 20 and 270 m in all, and spin echo with echo time 135 m in 11 patients. All primary neoplasms (intra-as well as extra-axial) showed choline (3.22 ppm) resonance along with lipid and/or lactate (1.3 ppm). It was not possible to grade cystic gliomas based on N-acetyl asparate-to-choline ratio. High-grade gliomas (n = 8) showed lipid/lactate and low-grade gliomas (n = 6) showed only lactate. Seven patients with brain abscess showed resonances only from acetate (1.92 ppm), lactate (1.3 ppm) and alanine (1.5 ppm). Two cases of metastatic adenocarcinoma showed only lipid/lactate. In 7 patients with epidermoid cyst, lactate along with an unassigned resonance at 1.8 ppm was observed and could be easily differentiated from arachnoid cysts (n = 2), which showed only minimal lactate. A case of cystic meningioma could be differentiated from cystic schwannoma by the presence of alanine in the former. It is concluded that MR imaging, when combined with in vivo MRS, may help to better characterize intracranial cystic mass lesions.