On the premise that seed ageing may be largely a result of free-radical lipid autoxidation, a study was made of the relationship between lipid stability and longevity in seeds of soybean (Glycine max), lentil (Lens culinaris), mungbean (Vigna radiata), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), broadbean (Vicia faba), pea (Pisum sativum), lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum). Seed lipids were examined for α-, γ- and δ-tocopherols, and levels of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. Using this information, analysis was attempted using linear, multiplicative or exponential models to correlate aspects of lipid stability with seed longevity values from the published literature. No statistically significant correlations could be found between longevity and total lipid unsaturation, tocopherol levels or two protection formulae obtained from the oil chemistry literature. When values for tomato were excluded, a good correlation (r = 0.89, P = 0.007) was obtained using a multiplicative regression model for levels of linolenic acid per unit of total tocopherols in relation to longevity. Possible factors contributing to a lessening of the relationship between lipid stability and seed longevity are discussed.