Functional diversity is hypothesised as being beneficial for ecosystem functions, such as productivity and resistance to invasion. However, a precise definition of functional diversity, and hence a framework for its quantification, have proved elusive. We present a definition based on the analogy of the components of species diversity – richness, evenness and divergence. These concepts are applied to functional characters to give three components of functional diversity – functional richness, functional evenness and functional divergence. We demonstrate how each of these components may be calculated. It is hoped that our definition of functional diversity and its components will aid in elucidation of the mechanisms behind diversity/ecosystem-function relationships.