Abstract This paper addresses the inversion of probabilistic models for the dynamical behaviour of structures using experimental data sets of measured frequency-domain transfer functions. The inversion is formulated as the minimization, with respect to the unknown parameters to be identified, of an objective function that measures a distance between the data and the model. Two such distances are proposed, based on either the loglikelihood function, or the relative entropy. As a comprehensive example, a probabilistic model for the dynamical behaviour of a slender beam is inverted using simulated data. The methodology is then applied to a civil and environmental engineering case history involving the identification of a probabilistic model for ground-borne vibrations from real experimental data.