Dendritic cells (DCs) possess the ability to integrate information about their environment and communicate it to other leukocytes, shaping adaptive and innate immunity. Over the years, a variety of cell types have been called DCs on the basis of phenotypic and functional attributes. Here, we refocus attention on conventional DCs (cDCs), a discrete cell lineage by ontogenetic and gene expression criteria that best corresponds to the cells originally described in the 1970s. We summarize current knowledge of mouse and human cDC subsets and describe their hematopoietic development and their phenotypic and functional attributes. We hope that our effort to review the basic features of cDC biology and distinguish cDCs from related cell types brings to the fore the remarkable properties of this cell type while shedding some light on the seemingly inordinate complexity of the DC field.