Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the sole member of the genus Hepevirus in the family Hepeviridae. HEV is transmitted primarily by the fecal-oral route, and water-borne epidemics are characteristic of hepatitis E in many developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America where sanitation conditions are suboptimal. Accumulating lines of evidence indicate that HEV-associated hepatitis also occurs domestically among individuals in industrialized countries, that there are animal reservoirs of HEV such as domestic pigs and wild boars, and that hepatitis E is a zoonosis. Based on the extensive genomic variability among HEV isolates, HEV sequences have been classified into four genotypes: genotype 1 consists of epidemic strains in developing countries in Asia and Africa; genotype 2 has been described in Mexico and several African countries; genotype 3 HEV is widely distributed and has been isolated from sporadic cases of acute hepatitis E and/or domestic pigs in many countries in the world, except for countries in Africa; and genotype 4 contains strains isolated from humans and/or domestic pigs exclusively in Asian countries. This paper reviews current knowledge on the genomic variability, geographic distribution and zoonotic aspects of HEV as well as the clinical significance of genotype and evolution of HEV.