The traditional view that epilepsy is usually a chronic condition in which the prognosis is consistently poor has been challenged in the last 2 decades. Evidence from population-based studies and from intervention studies in newly diagnosed patients has produced a wealth of information of a much better prognosis. It is now generally accepted that as many as 70–80% of people developing seizures for the first time will eventually achieve terminal remission, whereas the remaining 20–30% will continue to have recurrent seizures despite all treatment. Despite the high recurrence rate after a first epileptic seizure, remission usually occurs early and for most persons, epilepsy is a short-lived condition. The exact role of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in this good outcome, however, remains open to debate, because the natural history of the untreated condition is largely unknown. In this article, factors that may influence the prognosis of the epilepsies, including the problems of diagnosis, are reviewed. Special emphasis is given to the issue of spontaneous remission and the question of prognosis of different epileptic syndromes.