The inactive X chromosome differs from the active X in a number of ways; some of these, such as allocyclic replication and altered histone acetylation, are associated with all types of epigenetic silencing, whereas others, such as DNA methylation, are of more restricted use. These features are acquired progressively by the inactive X after onset of initiation. Initiation of X-inactivation is controlled by the X-inactivation center (Xic) and influenced by the X chromosome controlling element (Xce), which causes primary nonrandom X-inactivation. Other examples of nonrandom X-inactivation are also presented in this review. The definition of a major role for Xist, a noncoding RNA, in X-inactivation has enabled investigation of the mechanism leading to establishment of the heterochromatinized X-chromosome and also of the interactions between X-inactivation and imprinting as well as between X-inactivation and developmental processes in the early embryo.