The XMM–Newton Serendipitous Ultraviolet Source Survey (XMM-SUSS) is a catalogue of ultraviolet (UV) sources detected serendipitously by the Optical Monitor (XMM-OM) on board the XMM–Newton observatory. The catalogue contains UV-detected sources collected from 2417 XMM-OM observations in one to six broad-band UV and optical filters, made between 2000 February 24 and 2007 March 29. The primary contents of the catalogue are source positions, magnitudes and fluxes in one to six passbands, and these are accompanied by profile diagnostics and variability statistics. XMM-SUSS is populated by 753 578 UV source detections above a 3σ signal-to-noise ratio threshold limit which relate to 624 049 unique objects. Taking account of substantial overlaps between observations, the net sky area covered is 29–54 deg2, depending on UV filter. The magnitude distributions peak at mAB = 20.2, 20.9 and 21.2 in UVW2 (λeff = 2120 Å), UVM2 (λeff = 2310 Å) and UVW1 (λeff = 2910 Å), respectively. More than 10 per cent of the sources have been visited more than once using the same filter during XMM–Newton operation, and >20 per cent of sources are observed more than once per filter during an individual visit. Consequently, the scope for science based on temporal source variability on time-scales of hours to years is broad. By comparison with other astrophysical catalogues we test the accuracy of the source measurements and define the nature of the serendipitous UV XMM-OM source sample. The distributions of source colours in the UV and optical filters are shown together with the expected loci of stars and galaxies, and indicate that sources which are detected in multiple UV bands are predominantly star-forming galaxies and stars of type G or earlier.