Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological movement disorder characterised by bilateral limb kinetic/postural tremor, with or without tremor in other body parts including head, voice and lower limbs. Since no causative genes for ET have been identified, it is likely that the disorder occurs as a result of complex genetic factors interacting with various cellular and environmental factors that can result in abnormal function of circuitry involving the cerebello–thalamo–cortical pathway. Genetic analyses have uncovered at least 14 loci and 11 genes that are related to ET, as well as various risk or protective genetic factors. Limitations in ET genetic analyses include inconsistent disease definition, small sample size, varied ethnic backgrounds and many other factors that may contribute to paucity of relevant genetic data in ET. Genetic analyses, coupled with functional and animal studies, have led to better insights into possible pathogenic mechanisms underlying ET. These genetic studies may guide the future development of genetic testing and counselling, and specific, pathogenesis-targeted, therapeutic strategies.