Small RNAs such as microRNAs (miRNAs), short interfering RNAs (siRNAs) or Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are important regulators of gene expression in various organisms. Small RNAs bind to a member of the Argonaute protein family and are incorporated into larger structures that mediate diverse gene silencing events. The loading of Argonaute proteins with small RNAs is aided by a number of auxiliary factors as well as ATP hydrolysis. This review will focus on the mechanisms of Argonaute loading in different organisms. Furthermore, we highlight the versatile functions of small RNA-Argonaute protein complexes in organisms from all three kingdoms of life.