This study refines, clarifies and, where necessary, expands details of the guild approach developed by Elliott et al. (2007, Fish and Fisheries 8: 241–268) for the ways in which fish use estuaries. The estuarine usage functional group is now considered to comprise four categories, that is, marine, estuarine, diadromous and freshwater, with each containing multiple guilds. Emphasis has been placed on ensuring that the terminology and definitions of the guilds follow a consistent pattern, on highlighting the characteristics that identify the different guilds belonging to the estuarine category and in clarifying issues related to amphidromy. As the widely employed term ‘estuarine dependent’ has frequently been imprecisely used, the proposal that the species found in estuaries can be regarded as either obligate or facultative users of these systems is supported and considered in the guild context. Thus, for example, species in the five guilds comprising the diadromous category and those in the guilds containing species or populations confined to estuaries are obligate users, whereas those in the marine and freshwater estuarine-opportunistic guilds are facultative users.