Both postural and kinetic tremors may occur in essential tremor (ET), however the relative contribution of each is not clear. ET has been variably defined with respect to kinetic and postural tremors. To examine the relative severity of postural and kinetic tremors in ET, 50 ET cases from a clinic and 55 from a community underwent a videotaped tremor examination. Kinetic and postural tremors were rated using a validated clinical rating scale (score range, 0–3). Thirty-one cases also underwent accelerometry to precisely quantify tremor amplitude. In clinic cases, the mean postural tremor rating was 1.25 (S.D., 0.89). The mean kinetic tremor rating was 52% higher (1.90; S.D., 0.57; P < 0.001). The community cases had similar characteristics. Sixty percent of the 105 cases had postural tremor ratings scoring 0 or 1 (no tremor or low amplitude, intermittent tremor). In clinic cases, the mean amplitude of postural tremor during tremor analysis was 0.51 mm (S.D., 0.66 mm), and the mean amplitude of kinetic tremor was 2.91 mm (S.D., 2.11 mm; P < 0.01). Similar values were obtained for community cases. These quantitative data suggest that kinetic tremor is more severe than postural tremor in ET. The majority of cases had mild or absent postural tremor. Despite this, ET is defined only as a postural tremor in many studies. Our data argue for a more consistent inclusion of kinetic tremor in diagnostic criteria for ET. © 2002 Movement Disorder Society.