Cholinesterases (ChEs) display a hysteretic behavior with certain substrates and inhibitors. Kinetic cooperativity in hysteresis of ChE-catalyzed reactions is characterized by a lag or burst phase in the approach to steady state. With some substrates damped oscillations are shown to superimpose on hysteretic lags. These time dependent peculiarities are observed for both butyrylcholinesterase and acetylcholinesterase from different sources. Hysteresis in ChE-catalyzed reactions can be interpreted in terms of slow transitions between two enzyme conformers E and E'. Substrate can bind to E and/or E', both Michaelian complexes ES and Ε'S can be catalytically competent, or only one of them can make products. The formal reaction pathway depends on both the chemical structure of the substrate and the type of enzyme. In particular, damped oscillations develop when substrate exists in different, slowly interconvertible, conformational, and/or micellar forms, of which only the minor form is capable of binding and reacting with the enzyme. Biphasic pseudo-first-order progressive inhibition of ChEs by certain carbamates and organophosphates also fits with a slow equilibrium between two reactive enzyme forms. Hysteresis can be modulated by medium parameters (pH, chaotropic and kosmotropic salts, organic solvents, temperature, osmotic pressure, and hydrostatic pressure). These studies showed that water structure plays a role in hysteretic behavior of ChEs. Attempts to provide a molecular mechanism for ChE hysteresis from mutagenesis studies or crystallographic studies failed so far. In fact, several lines of evidence suggest that hysteresis is controlled by the conformation of His438, a key residue in the catalytic triad of cholinesterases. Induction time may depend on the probability of His438 to adopt the operative conformation in the catalytic triad. The functional significance of ChE hysteresis is puzzling. However, the accepted view that proteins are in equilibrium between preexisting functional and non-functional conformers, and that binding of a ligand to the functional form shifts equilibrium towards the functional conformation, suggests that slow equilibrium between two conformational states of these enzymes may have a regulatory function in damping out the response to certain ligands and irreversible inhibitors. This is particularly true for immobilized (membrane bound) enzymes where the local substrate and/or inhibitor concentrations depend on influx in crowded organellar systems, e.g. cholinergic synaptic clefts. Therefore, physiological or toxicological relevance of the hysteretic behavior and damped oscillations in ChE-catalyzed reactions and inhibition cannot be ruled out.