Aberrations in centrosome numbers have long been implicated in aneuploidy and tumorigenesis, but their origins are unknown. Here we have examined how overexpression of Aurora-A kinase causes centrosome amplification in cultured cells. We show that excess Aurora-A does not deregulate centrosome duplication but gives rise to extra centrosomes through defects in cell division and consequent tetraploidization. Over expression of other mitotic kinases (Polo-like kinase 1 and Aurora-B) also causes multinucleation and concomitant increases in centrosome numbers. Absence of a p53 checkpoint exacerbates this phenotype, providing a plausible explanation for the centrosome amplification typical of p53-/- cells. We propose that errors during cell division, combined with the inability to detect the resulting hyperploidy, constitute a major cause for numerical centrosome aberrations in tumors.