Seeds are a vital component of the world’s diet. Cereal grains alone, which comprise -90% of all cultivated seeds, contribute up to half of the global per capita energy intake. Not surprisingly then, seed biology is one of the most extensively researched areas in plant physiology. Even in relation to the topics reviewed here, a casual perusal of the Agricola database reveals that well over 5000 publications on seed germination and 700 on seed dormancy have appeared in the last decade. Yet we still cannot answer two fundamental questions: how does the embryo emerge from the seed to complete germination, and how is embryo emergence blocked so that seeds can be maintained in the dormant state? Obviously, with such a large literature on the subject, this review is far from comprehensive. Nevertheless, it provides both an overview of the essential processes that are associated with germination and a description of the possible impediments thereto that may result in dormancy.