Segmentation is a feature of the body plans of a number of diverse animal groupings, including the annelids, arthropods and chordates. However, it has been unclear whether or not these different manifestations of segmentation are independently derived or have a common origin. Central to this issue is whether or not there are common developmental mechanisms that establish segmentation and the evolutionary origins of these processes. A fruitful way to address this issue is to consider how segmentation in vertebrates is directed. During vertebrate development three different segmental systems are established: the somites, the rhombomeres and the pharyngeal arches. In each an iteration of parts along the long axis is established. However, it is clear that the formation of the somites, rhombomeres or pharyngeal arches have little in common, and as such there is no single segmentation process. These different segmental systems also have distinct evolutionary histories, thus highlighting the fact that segmentation can and does evolve independently at multiple points. We conclude that the term segmentation indicates nothing more than a morphological description and that it implies no mechanistic similarity. Thus it is probable that segmentation has arisen repeatedly during animal evolution.