The Batillariidae are a family of cerithioidean gastropods consisting of 14 living species, classified in six to eight genera. They are abundant on sandy mudflats and sometimes on rocky shores, on continental margins in the warm-temperate to tropical regions of the northwestern Pacific Ocean, Australasia and the Americas. Using samples from all 14 nominal batillariid species, we present a molecular phylogenetic hypothesis constructed from two genes, mitochondrial 16S rRNA and nuclear 28S rRNA, with taxa from four marine cerithioidean families as outgroups (Cerithiidae, Modulidae, Planaxidae, Potamididae). The Batillariidae as traditionally conceived are not monophyletic, because the Neotropical ‘batillariids’Lampanella and Rhinocoryne are sister to the Planaxidae. The monophyletic Batillariidae sensu stricto are restricted to the northwestern Pacific and Australasia; we suggest a revised generic classification consistent with our phylogenetic hypothesis and recognize the four genera Batillaria, Pyrazus, Velacumantus and Zeacumantus. We propose a definition of the family using shell characters, as a basis for a review of the extensive fossil record. Batillariids appeared in the Late Cretaceous or Palaeocene, and the extinct genera Pyrazopsis, Vicinocerithium and Granulolabium became diverse in the Tethyan realm before the group disappeared from Europe at the end of the Miocene. The Batillariidae s. s. reached Australia and New Zealand by the Late Oligocene, and the genera Pyrazus, Velacumantus and Zeacumantus still survive in this refugium of Tethyan fauna. Two lineages, Batillaria and the extinct Tateiwaia, migrated north to China and Japan in the Early Miocene, to establish the present disjunct distribution of this relictual group in southern Australasia and the Oriental region.