The soluble-type lectins or galectins constitute a family of proteins defined by shared consensus amino acid sequence and affinity for beta-galactose-containing oligosaccharides. These molecules are widely distributed in the animal kingdom; to date, 15 mammalian galectins have been described but more are likely to be discovered. These proteins are involved in many biological processes including cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion, growth regulation, signaling, and cytokine secretion. Over the last decade, a vast amount of reports has shown the importance of several galectins in the development and progression of malignancies in the digestive tract, mainly colorectal cancers. More recent data indicate that some of these molecules are also involved in inflammatory bowel diseases. This review focuses on the current knowledge of galectin expression and putative functions in the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon. It also highlights that the rapid accumulation of research data promises future scenarios in which individual members of the galectin family and/or their ligands will be used as diagnostic and therapeutic modalities for neoplastic as well as inflammatory disorders. However, the concretization of these potential modalities requires substantial improvements in terms of standardization of galectin expression evaluation together with prospective validation of the present data.