We are endowed with a rich knowledge about Caenorhabditis elegans. Its stereotyped anatomy and development has stimulated research and resulted in the accumulation of cell-based information concerning gene expression, and the role of specific cells in developmental signalling and behavioural circuits. To make the information more accessible to sophisticated queries and automated retrieval systems, WormBase has begun to construct a C. elegans cell and anatomy ontology. Here we present our strategies and progress. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.