This article seeks to clarify the terminology associated with disease control, elimination and eradication programmes. There are several global activities under way, which are initiated and guided by resolutions of the World Health Assembly. Scrutiny of the feasibility of achieving eradication goals by bodies such as the International Task Force for Disease Eradication has identified diseases that could be eradicated. The criteria for this attribution as eradicable, the definitions guiding policy, and examples of programmes and strategies are provided here. This article pleads for scientific, health policy and editorial communities to be more consistent in the use of the terms control, elimination and eradication, and to adhere to published definitions.