In plants, basic leucine zipper (bZIP) proteins regulate numerous biological processes such as seed maturation, flower and vascular development, stress signalling and pathogen defence. We have carried out a genome-wide identification and analysis of 125 bZIP genes that exist in the maize genome, encoding 170 distinct bZIP proteins. This family can be divided into 11 groups according to the phylogenetic relationship among the maize bZIP proteins and those in Arabidopsis and rice. Six kinds of intron patterns (a-f) within the basic and hinge regions are defined. The additional conserved motifs have been identified and present the group specificity. Detailed three-dimensional structure analysis has been done to display the sequence conservation and potential distribution of the bZIP domain. Further, we predict the DNA-binding pattern and the dimerization property on the basis of the characteristic features in the basic and hinge regions and the leucine zipper, respectively, which supports our classification greatly and helps to classify 26 distinct subfamilies. The chromosome distribution and the genetic analysis reveal that 58 ZmbZIP genes are located in the segmental duplicate regions in the maize genome, suggesting that the segment chromosomal duplications contribute greatly to the expansion of the maize bZIP family. Across the 60 different developmental stages of 11 organs, three apparent clusters formed represent three kinds of different expression patterns among the ZmbZIP gene family in maize development. A similar but slightly different expression pattern of bZIPs in two inbred lines displays that 22 detected ZmbZIP genes might be involved in drought stress. Thirteen pairs and 143 pairs of ZmbZIP genes show strongly negative and positive correlations in the four distinct fungal infections, respectively, based on the expression profile and Pearson's correlation coefficient analysis.